Former President Trump shared his condolences for the victims and their families of a recent school shooting in Iowa during a campaign stop in the Hawkeye State Friday — but then urged his supporters to “move forward.”
“I want to send our support and our deepest sympathies to the victims and families touched by the terrible school shooting yesterday in Perry, Iowa,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Sioux City.
“It’s just horrible, so surprising to see it here,” he added. “But have to get over it, we have to move forward.”
His somewhat harsh rhetoric comes after a gunman entered Perry High School on Thursday morning, the first day back from winter break, with a pump action shotgun and handgun. He shot and killed one student, and left several others injured — including the school principal, authorities confirmed.
The suspect, 17-year-old Dylan Butler, then shot and killed himself as law enforcement responded, the police said. They did not comment on whether they found any potential motive.
The shooting occurred just miles from where Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, seen as Trump’s closest ally in the race, was scheduled to hold an event the same day. The entrepreneur’s campaign canceled the event and held private prayer instead.
Ramaswamy predicted politicians would respond to the incident with calls for gun control, criticizing them for what he said are “knee-jerk policy reactions.” Instead, the GOP hopeful said the focus of legislation should be on mental health.
“The temptation is just pass some law, paper and over and say we did something in response to this,” he said. “You mark my words: Tomorrow, if not later today, you’re going to hear calls for, ‘Stop the guns, that’s the problem,’ sweeping under the rug this real ailment at the heart and soul of our nation and our culture that has spread to the entire next generation and to the unit of the family. The loss of purpose.”
Rival Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador who has gained momentum in the polls, gave a similar argument.
“We have to deal with the cancer that is mental health. We have to,” Haley told voters at a CNN town hall in Des Moines on Thursday evening, later adding “What we see is that 80 percent of mass shooters are in some sort of crisis at the time that they do that.”
“We have got to do better. The problem is we don’t have enough mental health therapists,” she said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has focused much on his presidential campaign on Iowa, voiced support for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) — who endorsed him for 2024 — and local law enforcement following the shooting. He too said the focus should be on mental health.
Their comments come as the Iowa caucuses — which will kickstart primary voting season for the 2024 GOP primary — are set to take place in just over a week. The candidates have been on the ground in the state this week vying for support ahead of the Jan. 15 caucuses.
Trump still remains the clear front-runner in the race, leading with 51.6 percent support, according to Iowa polling averages from The Hill/Decision Desk HQ. DeSantis trails in second place at 18 percent, while Haley closely follows at 17.1 percent.
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