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Texas school shooting victim's mother says talking to Trump "like talking to a toddler"

HOUSTON -- President Donald Trump spent more than an hour privately Thursday with some of those impacted by a Texas mass school shooting that killed 10 and wounded more than a dozen on May 18. But at least one of the victim's parents came away unimpressed.

Rhonda Hart, whose 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed at the school, told The Associated Press that Mr. Trump repeatedly used the word "wacky" to describe the shooter and the trench coat he wore. She said she told Mr. Trump, "Maybe if everyone had access to mental health care, we wouldn't be in the situation."

Hart, an Army veteran, said she also suggested employing veterans as sentinels in schools. She said Mr. Trump responded, "And arm them?" She replied, "No," but said Mr. Trump "kept mentioning" arming classroom teachers. "It was like talking to a toddler," Hart said.

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Kimberly Vaughan with her mother, Rhonda Hart

Rhonda Hart/Facebook

Hart has previously called for gun control, saying "we need to protect our kids."

Reporters were not permitted to witness the meeting.

The latest spasm of violence in a year marred by assaults on the nation's schools, the shooting at Santa Fe High School was the latest to test the president's role as national comforter-in-chief. Mr. Trump met with more than two dozen people affected by the shooting, and did not publicly share his message for the grieving families and local leaders during a meeting at a Coast Guard base outside Houston.

Pamela Stanich - whose 17-year-old son, Jared Black, was among the eight students killed - was one of the parents who met with Mr. Trump, presenting him with a family statement and a copy of her son's eulogy.

Trump "met with us privately and showed sincerity, compassion, and concern on making our schools safer across the nation," she wrote in a Facebook post after the meeting. "He spent time talking to the survivors and asking on what happened and what would have made a difference. Changes are coming for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump."

Displaying empathy does not come naturally to Mr. Trump, who has been criticized for appearing unfeeling in times of tragedy, including when he sharply criticized a mayor in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a deadly hurricane and fought with a Gold Star military family.

But Mr. Trump has at times displayed a softer side. On Wednesday, he returned a hug from an 8-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy who attended a White House event where he signed legislation to give patients the right to try experimental treatments.

Before Thursday, Mr. Trump was most recently in the Lone Star State on May 4 to attend the annual National Rifle Association convention. He pledged in his address that NRA members' Second Amendment rights "will never, ever be under siege as long as I am your president."

He also touted the administration's "aggressive strategy on community safety" and mentioned armed guards, armed teachers, mental health and metal detectors, but did not mention assault rifles like the one used in Florida.