Our Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Doing Anything

The morning I turned 20, I woke up and reached for my phone, excited to see the screen light up with heartfelt messages from family and friends. As I looked through my notifications, however, I saw one that made my stomach drop. “Deadliest Mass Shooting in American History,” said a notification from a news outlet. I clicked on the article to see that 58 people had been killed and 546 had been injured. I was horrified, furious, confused, and dejected all at once.
My birthday suddenly felt so insignificant— how could I celebrate my life knowing that 58 people had just had theirs unfairly ripped away from them? For about a week, that mix of horror, anger, confusion and sadness stayed with me and all Americans. People were heatedly debating gun control all over the web and in person, as well as taking time to honor the victims. My usual ritual of celebrating my birthday had been overshadowed by another ritual common in America, coping with a mass shooting. And then, what happens after every mass shooting happened: we forgot about it. When I thought back to the day of Oct. 2, I remembered everything that happened, but the emotions that it inspired in me were gone.
Just like a birthday, on the day of a mass shooting, phones are lit up with notifications, the following days may get some belated mentions of it, and the weekend of there may be some sort of ceremony or gathering organized for it, but afterwards it leaves peoples’ minds until the next one comes around. Mass shootings have become so normal in American life that we have ritualized them in the same way people ritualize birthdays.
These are not normal, though. We can’t let mass murder just become a staple in our calendar. People have been sending thoughts and prayers since Columbine and they are doing absolutely nothing. They’re only getting bloodier by the year and still nothing is being done.
The most powerful terrorist organization in the U.S. is largely responsible for the normalization of shootings. Every year, the National Rifle Association (NRA) gives several politicians millions of dollars each to be okay with murder. Politicians such as Richard Burr (RNC) will tweet, “My heart is with the people of Las Vegas and their first responders today. This morning’s tragic violence has absolutely no place here in America.” while taking $7,000,000 a year from the NRA. Senator Burr may actually believe gun violence has no place in America, but he doesn’t care enough to do anything about it, because that would mean losing one of his biggest donors.
While the all talk, no action way of dealing with gun violence is a major problem for the right, the left is also guilty of it. People will fill their social media feeds with talk of stricter gun control and go on about how we have got to stop the NRA. They may even call a senator or two, but they forget about it the same way the right does. Most don’t continue to make those calls, or donate to groups dedicated to stopping domestic terrorism, or get involved in local politics when issues of gun control come up.
After Las Vegas, it felt as though something might be done. Over 600 people had been gunned down and people were really, really angry at first, but just like every other shooting, that sentiment faded. As journalist Dan Hodges famously noted on Twitter, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable it was over.”
This weekend, we’re dealing with the first mass shooting after Las Vegas, and people are really, really angry again. As of Nov. 6, The New York Times reported that the death toll is at 26 and 20 have been injured. The youngest victim was 18 months old and the oldest 77 years old. 14 of the people killed or injured were children. People were killed in a place of worship as they were praying. Republican or Democrat, we all know this is wrong and we want it to stop happening.
Along with the usual talk recapping this weekend’s events or postulating who went home with who, dining halls and common areas this Sunday were also filled with angry and confused people discussing gun control. Do not let go of those emotions. Do not let this be just another event that you’ll forget in a couple weeks. Save your thoughts and prayers. We don’t need them— we need anger; we need action.

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