President Donald Trump started a trip to Texas by privately meeting families of some of the 10 people killed in a school shooting this month.
A White House spokesman said he was “moved” by the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two substitute teachers dead. A student faces capital murder charges over the attack.
“These events are very tragic, whenever they happen. And you know, the president wants to extend his condolences and talk about the issue of school safety,” spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.
Mr Trump, who at times has awkwardly embraced his role as the national comforter-in-chief, spent more than an hour with families and local leaders at a Coast Guard station just outside Houston.
“He’s the president of the United States, but he’s also a father. He’s also a husband, and he obviously understands what it’s like, you know, to love someone and then lose someone,”Mr Shah said.
He added that Mr Trump approaches situations like these as a human being and a parent, not necessarily as a politician.
“I think he just, you know, he talks to families, he listens and he wants to learn,” Mr Shah said.
Texas governor Greg Abbott and senator Ted Cruz, both Republicans, greeted Mr Trump on the tarmac after he stepped off of Air Force One at a Houston military base.
Mr Abbott joined him for the short ride in the presidential limousine to a Coast Guard hangar where the meeting was taking place.
Mr Trump was then scheduled to attend several political events in Houston and Dallas.
After 17 teachers and students were killed during a February shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, Mr Trump said he would work to improve school safety but has not called for new gun control legislation.
Classes at Santa Fe High School resumed on Tuesday for the first time since the shooting.
Investigators say student Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, carried out the attack with a shotgun and pistol that belonged to his father. Pagourtzis has been charged with capital murder.
As the Parkland students became vocal advocates for gun control, embracing their public positions as few school survivors had before, Mr Trump quickly became a rallying cry for their anger.
His visit to Florida in the wake of the shooting saw aides keep him clear of the school, which could have been the site of protests.
He instead met a few victims at a local hospital and paid tribute to first responders at the nearby sheriff’s office.
To this point, there has not been a similar outcry for restrictions on firearms from the students and survivors in deep-red Texas.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders grew emotional when, during the daily press briefing, she was asked by a young student journalist about what steps the administration was taking to safeguard schools.
Before Thursday, Mr Trump was most recently in the Lone Star State on May 4, when he attended the annual NRA convention and pledged that the attendees’ 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 Parkland.