Florida shooting: Two Americas speak in aftermath

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Another day, another school shooting - several since the start of 2018. With the Parkland, Florida, death toll ranking it as one of the deadliest in US history, however, politicians and policymakers across the ideological spectrum are united in calling for action.

This kind of thing can't happen again, they say. Or, at least, it can't happen as numbingly often as it has been.

"It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening and we are, once again, watching the images of our children - terrified - streaming from their school with their hands above their heads," US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday morning. "We are going to take action. We must reverse these trends."

Understanding the direction of these devastating trends is one thing. Figuring out what to do next - what to do first - is an entirely different debate. That's where the political divides in the US grow into chasms.

Less than 24 hours after the shooting, on cable news and throughout social media, Americans - on the left and the right - weren't just making distinct policy recommendations, they were having entirely different political conversations.

Gun control

In his address to the nation Thursday morning, Donald Trump didn't mention the word "gun" or "firearm" once. Unlike his predecessor, gun control isn't even on the president's radar.

While Democrats were quick to propose increased regulation of firearms in the aftermath of Parkland, those efforts - like previous efforts after Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs and Orlando - will run into a wall of opposition in the Republican-held Congress.

Mental health

While Republicans have carefully avoided a gun-control debate - rebuffing any mention as being too political or too soon - they've been much more willing to talk about the need to address issues of mental health.

"We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health," Mr Trump said in his Thursday remarks.

The Florida suspect reportedly sought psychological services at a clinic at some point, and accounts from former classmates paint a picture of a 19-year-old who was a social outcast with violent tendencies.

Where liberals and conservatives diverge, however, is in how to prevent an individual suffering from mental disease from committing violent acts.

  • What we know about Florida shooting suspect
  • Read more on the victims here

Democrats will press for greater funding for psychological services through public and private insurance programmes. They will denounce the president's proposed cuts to Medicaid, a state-run insurance system for the poor. They will herald the mental-health coverage requirements in Obamacare, which Mr Trump and his fellow Republicans have tried to repeal.

They'll also point to an Obama-era rule that would have kept individuals receiving government-funded treatment for mental illness from purchasing firearms, which Republicans in Congress repealed - the only gun-related piece of legislation Mr Trump has signed.

Republicans, on the other hand, have suggested more aggressive enforcement of existing laws preventing individuals who make overt threats of violence from purchasing firearms.

"If someone who is mentally ill is slipping through the cracks and getting a gun, because we have laws on the books — we have a system to prevent people who aren't supposed to get guns from getting guns — and if there are gaps there, then we need to look at those gaps," Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said during a press conference on Thursday.

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