Once again, it was the images of children that propelled President Donald Trump to act.
Trump spent the first days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida fixated on the grieving and anguished students and parents.
While at his Florida estate for the long weekend after the shooting, Trump studied the students’ appeals on cable news, listened to their accounts during a visit to a hospital and processed their words not just as a president but as the father of an 11-year-old.
The shooting made “no sense,” Trump has told aides privately, and said the White House had to do something.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to share private conversations, likened the president’s reaction to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to the impact Trump felt when he saw images of children’s listless bodies after a chemical attack in Syria last April.
Trump ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government. After the shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people, Trump cast widely for answers. He even embraced some ideas at odds with his allies at the National Rifle Association.
One idea took root during a dinner last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where the president had put off playing golf for two days on the advice of aides who said golfing so soon after the shooting would be insensitive.
Television personality Geraldo Rivera, who dined with the president and his two oldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, arrived with a pitch: Ban people under age 21 from buying assault-type weapons.
Trump took the idea “under advisement,” Rivera, a Fox contributor, wrote in an email. And as days passed by, consideration turned into full-blown support.
“The savagery of the wounds inflicted by the AR-15 shocked and distressed him,” Rivera said.
Before the weekend was over, Trump was weighing ideas from imposing new gun controls to arming school officials. He tapped into the thinking of family, aides and outside allies. As the days went on, his list kept growing.