What do we need to do to end gun violence? The answer is: More than just sending “thoughts and prayers.”
Since the Sunday shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 dead and hundred others critically injured, the country is in a visible turmoil as the cruel act has brought up more intensely issues on gun violence, gun control laws, racism, and violence.
But why does it take acts of violence like these to get our legislators talking about these issues more seriously? Various incidences have already occurred in the past year and a half that should have warranted immediate action on gun control laws, but why does the measure seem to always be waiting in the wings until a new disaster brings up the discussion that has already been a deafening battle cry of various victims of gun-related crimes?
With every new disaster that keeps popping up we only get a momentary speech , tweet or Facebook post of how everyone has the victims in their “thoughts and prayers,” in the time that Americans demand laws to better monitor those who can purchase, keep, and carry firearms.
The time for condolences is over; Americans are demanding action from the people they help put in public office.
Ben Barna in his Nylon article notes that with each mass shooting occurring in the country, the phrase is quickly becoming drained of its meaning and instead of the intended message, is becoming increasingly viewed with scorn.
“It’s an inoffensive and apolitical way for a public figure to comment on a tragedy without alienating any of their fans. While it’s always welcome for a celebrity with a huge public platform to speak out about a cause they believe in, it is not required. The same cannot be said about politicians, specifically Republican ones, who actually have the power to change gun control laws,” wrote Barna.
In the afternoon following the shooting, #ThoughtsAndPrayersAreNotEnough became a trending and ubiquitous hashtag on Twitter, but as many as there were who tweeted it out in earnest, there was also a growing number of everyday people, and politicians as well, who voiced out their dissatisfaction with the phrase.
Barna pointed out in particular Mark Kelly, the husband of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who in 2011 survived a gunshot to the head gave out a public statement following the incident.
“Thoughts and prayers aren’t going to stop the next shooting.”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 2, 2017
And this 2015 clip from comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s Netflix special, in which he mocks the usage of “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of tragedy, was being widely circulated online.
Barna noted that the backlash to the phrase wasn’t new, but it seemed “particularly amplified in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy,” perpetrated by a middle-aged white man.
“Part of that has to do with the unprecedented scope of the violence inflicted by the shooter, Stephen Paddock, but another reason is that this is the biggest mass shooting to occur during the Trump administration, at a time when the country is more divided than ever and when Republicans have shown an insidious willingness to play politics during a national crisis and a remarkable ability to not get anything done,” he wrote.
“The feeling of helplessness is more deeply felt than at any time we can remember. And then to watch Trump, the human embodiment of a throwaway tweet, get up before the country and say to the families of the victims that “we are praying for you and we are here for you,” well, it’s hard to imagine a statement more empty than that.”