Opinion | TD originals

'Thoughts and Prayers' Are Killing Us

Parents wait for news after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Joel Auerbach / AP)

The next mass shooting might be coming to an American city near you.

This time, 17 people are dead after a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. It was the eighth shooting at a U.S. school in 2018 that resulted in injury or death and the 18th school shooting overall this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 30 mass shooting incidents have occurred in America in 2018, killing 58 people and injuring 124.

In 2017, the U.S. had 346 mass shootings.

Since 2013, the U.S. has had 291 school shootings, reports Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.

This is not normal behavior. This is not acceptable behavior. But violence has become normalized and accepted in America. The response to violence has become predictable and gutless. Instead of lawmakers rushing to craft sensible gun laws after a mass shooting, all we get are “thoughts and prayers and condolences.”

“Thoughts and prayers” are killing Americans. They have become a cruel euphemism for inaction.

“Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families,” President Trump said Thursday in a statement addressing the Parkland school shooting. “To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you—whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain. We are all joined together as one American family, and your suffering is our burden also.”

Here’s what America needs: smarter, stricter gun laws. Congress—which has done nothing about gun ownership since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, when a lone gunman with an assault rifle killed 20 first-graders and six adults in a mass shooting—needs to enact tough gun control legislation now.

Begin by confiscating all semiautomatic weapons. Then, ban them.

Why does anyone need an AR-15 assault rifle, anyway?

The 19-year-old Parkland shooter was an orphan with known behavioral issues, and he legally bought the assault weapon used in the attack. He lived with a friend’s family that knew he had an AR-15. They weren’t concerned because he kept it locked in a cabinet. But he had the key.

Common sense in America is an endangered species. As a result, our country is moving closer to extinction.

Gun advocates say stricter gun laws would not prevent mass shootings. They say guns don’t kill people, that mentally ill people and criminals kill people. Well, what if we made it impossible for mentally ill people and criminals to buy guns?

“We’re lessening the threshold of how crazy someone needs to be to commit a mass shooting,” Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine school shooting, told The Guardian after the Las Vegas mass shooting last fall.

Gun supporters point to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, as if it’s oxygen. Without guns, they claim, we will be vulnerable to other gun owners, such as the government and mass shooters. If fewer people had guns, and the guns that did exist were better controlled, people would not have to worry about being shot.

How about providing an incentive for people to get rid of their guns? It worked in Australia, where 650,000 firearms were collected and there was a substantial drop in suicides and murders.

If we started burying guns, we could stop burying children.

No assault rifles, no mass shootings.

The sad truth is that the United States is moving in the opposite direction. Our defense budget surges year after year without any debate. That money is used to create more killing machines, more killers and more injustice.

That is the American way these days.

“The United States is not No. 1 in much,” journalist Shaun King acknowledged on Twitter. “Not education, not healthcare, not economic equality, none of that. We’re No. 1 in mass shootings and mass incarceration. It’s not even close. That’s where we lead. This is what we’re the best at.”

It’s not too late for America to change course. We can create something that benefits humanity. Common-sense gun laws would help.

Thoughts and prayers are not going to bring back the 17 students and teachers who died in Parkland.

Thoughts and prayers are not going to prevent the next Parkland.

If that’s OK with you, keep supporting the gun laws we have.

Eric Ortiz
Eric Ortiz is a journalist and innovator with two decades in digital media, Ortiz founded the mobile app startup Evrybit, a live storytelling and reporting tool, as a 2014 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at…
Eric Ortiz

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