Thoughts, Prayers Will Not Save the U.S.

Colleen Narup, Editor |

Dec. 14, 2012: After murdering his mother in their nearby home in Newtown, Conn., a 20-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School while classes were in session and opened fire, killing six adult staff members and 21 children.

June 12, 2016: A 29-year-old, motivated by hatred for the LGBT community, killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., with an SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle before being shot down by police.

Oct. 1, 2017: A 64-year-old rained bullets down on a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas and killed 58 concertgoers, using 23 different guns that he carried with him to his room at the Mandalay Bay hotel across the street.

These tragedies have become far too common, and in the wake of each one, one cannot open any social media app without seeing at least one post containing the simple phrase: “Thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families.”

While the sentiment behind these words is usually well-meaning, especially for people far away from the locations of such events who feel otherwise powerless and want to at least offer condolences, it ultimately does nothing to help the situation.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 397 shootings in 2017 as of Nov. 24. In 2016, there have been over 11,000 gun-related homicides—roughly 9,000 more than in 2015. On top of that, the rate of gun homicides in the United States is 25 times higher than in any other high-income country. This is a long-lasting problem that won’t just go away with “thoughts and prayers.” What we need is policy and change.

The United Kingdom has maintained strict gun laws since a mass shooting at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996 that resulted in the deaths of one teacher and 16 children. The laws put in place put heavy restrictions on handguns in particular while a previous incident in Hungerford in 1988 led to the ban of semi-automatic rifles. Gun-related crimes didn’t completely come to a halt following this new legislation, but only one mass shooting has occurred since.

Japan’s gun laws come close to being considered zero-tolerance, according to The Guardian, and the statistics show that the low rate of gun crimes in the country can be contributed to this. In 2014, there were only six reported gun-related deaths throughout the entire year. The highest number of gun-related deaths in Japan in recent years was 22 in 2007, and the incidents prompted a consideration for new policies on firearms.

Meanwhile, mass shootings occur almost daily in the United States, but it seems each incident only sparks heavy debate over gun control laws and further divides the country. Our government doesn’t come any closer to implementing new policies to prevent any more deaths of innocent citizens, even though other countries have proven that stricter gun laws can lead to a drastic decrease in gun-related crimes. But of course, they’ll all give their “thoughts and prayers” to everyone affected by such tragedies.

There’s nothing wrong with giving thoughts and prayers, but most don’t seem to realize that there’s so much more they can do to support victims when tragedies like this occur. There are countless organizations across the nation that advocate for gun-control laws and help victims of gun violence, including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and more locally, the St. Louis Gun Crime organization, whose website has a “Take Action” list that provides more organizations looking for volunteers to help with the cause.

Gun violence and mass shootings are an ongoing epidemic in this country, and nothing is going to change unless we help promote legal action through advocacy and supporting local organizations to prevent gun violence. Giving your “thoughts and prayers” on Facebook when another mass shooting occurs and then arguing to not take away second amendment rights does nothing.

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