President Donald Trump said Friday that mass shootings have been “going on too long in our country” as he offered his first public remarks on the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.
“Unfortunately, I have to begin by expressing our sadness and heartbreak over the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas,” Trump said Friday from the East Room of the White House. “This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years. Too many decades now.”
Trump said federal authorities are coordinating with local officials.
“We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack,” Trump said.
On Friday afternoon, Trump ordered flags at half-staff in memory of the victims “of the terrible act of violence.”
“Our Nation grieves with those affected by the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas,” Trump said in a proclamation with the order. “May God heal the injured and may God comfort the wounded, and may God be with the victims and with the victims’ families.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the newly created Federal Commission on School Safety, which she chairs, is working daily “to identify proven ways to prevent violence and keep our students safe at school.”
“My heart is heavy from watching the horrific events that unfolded at Santa Fe High School today,” DeVos’ said in a statement. “My prayers are with each student, parent, educator and first responder impacted. Our schools must be safe and nurturing environments for learning. No student should have to experience the trauma suffered by so many today and in similar events prior. We simply cannot allow this trend to continue.”
The statement said the work of identifying the threats “remains urgent.”
“Our nation must come together and address the underlying issues that lead to such tragic and senseless loss of life,” she said.
Members of Congress also offered their condolences, with several members calling for legislative action to prevent future shootings.
“How many times must our hearts break hearing news like this - this time in Texas, at #SantaFeHighSchool?” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, wrote on Twitter. “This has to stop.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Congress “has a duty to take action to save lives. #neveragain.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, called out Congress for being “complicit.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s staff said the GOP senator is headed to Santa Fe, as is Rep. Randy Weber, a Republican who represents the district where the shooting took place.
Weber told reporters his initial reaction was “one of shock, sadness and disbelief,” adding that a gun control debate is one “that needs to be had.”
“Gun control is an interesting term when you think about it. Because there’s been a lot of weapons used to kill a lot of people … You’re hearing the term, you know, mental illness … we are having problems where people are deciding they’re going to take somebody else’s life, things are either that bad or they’re that angry. And so how do we address that problem – needs to be part of that discussion as well,” he said.
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Bridget Nolan and Dana Bash contributed to this report.