Donald Trump visits Florida hospital that treated school shooting victims

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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit with Dr Igor Nichiporenko, a trauma surgeon at Broward Health North Hospital in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES/AFP)- US President Donald Trump on Friday (Feb 16) visited a hospital in Pompano Beach, Florida, to console victims of the school shooting in nearby Parkland, one of the deadliest of his presidency.

"It's very sad, something like that could happen," a solemn Trump told reporters afterward.

The President, accompanied by his wife, Melania, also paid tribute to doctors and to emergency workers for quickly transporting people from the high school to Broward Health North hospital.

"The job the doctors did, the nurses, the hospital, first responders, law enforcement - really incredible," Trump said.

He did not respond to a question about whether gun laws should change.

Trump's visit to the hospital had not been announced in advance. The US leader is spending the long President's Day holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort, which is only about a 45-minute drive from Parkland, where the Valentine's Day shooting rampage took place.

A troubled former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has confessed to gunning down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School north on Wednesday, in the country's worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago.

In the wake of the attack, Trump has vowed to tackle mental health and school safety, but has yet to make any mention of gun control.

While the latest atrocity has reignited questions about US gun laws, Trump - the first president to have addressed the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby - staunchly opposes any additional controls.

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In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Trump suggested the root cause of the mass shootings that regularly stun the United States was a crisis of mental health - an argument regularly made by opponents of gun curbs.

Since January 2013, there have been at least 291 school shootings across the country - an average of one a week, according to the non-profit group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Since the shooting, Trump has faced teary pleas from some relatives of the dead including Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed.

"We need action! Action! Action!" Alhadeff urged in an interview with CNN, addressing Trump as the father of an 11-year-old son of his own.

"Let's protect Barron, and let's also protect all these other kids here in Parkland, in Florida, and everyone everywhere else," she said.

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