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After 29 mass shootings in 45 days, ‘thoughts and prayers’ don’t cut it anymore

Shawn McFarland


Do you know what this number represents? As it turns out, quite a bit. It’s the atomic number of copper. It’s an album by Ryan Adams. It’s the number of days that February has in a leap year.

It’s also the number of the school shootings the United States has seen this year alone. Mind you, we’re 45 days into the year. 

This of course comes after the deadliest year in U.S. history, in which there were 345 mass shootings (per Gun Violence Archive), including the two deadliest in the country’s history. The general consensus after 2017 left us bloodied and beaten was, ‘When will this year end?’ Unfortunately, the calendar turning was not enough to halt the gunfire.

A student opened fire at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Wednesday and injured 12. Some will wonder what could have been to prevent it. Others will clamor that the moments after a mass shooting isn’t the the time to discuss gun laws. Many will utter the three most overused and empty words in the modern vernacular: thoughts and prayers.

Sure, sending thoughts and prayers sounds like the right thing to do. Hey, no one has ever sent thoughts and prayers with bad intentions. Because it is fine to keep victims in your thoughts. It is fine to pray for the families.

But we sent thoughts and prayers after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. And after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. And after the Las Vegas and Texas shooting in 2017.

Quite frankly, thoughts and prayers have done nothing. And they will continue to be nothing but filler words and empty wishes until action is applied to the positive wishes.

Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida who’s accepted over $3 million from the National Rifle Association, added “Today is a day you pray that never comes.” Florida governor Rick Scott, who’s signed more pro-gun bills than I can count on one hand, tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers are with the students.”

You see? There it is again. Those three words that lawmakers and citizens alike love to use. The same people who wheel and deal condolences are the ones turning around and pumping guns into Florida. Now, this column isn’t here to discuss gun control, or the role that politicians have in regulating the acquisition of firearms (thought, if I had it my way, we’d stuff all of the country’s guns into the rocket and shoot them into space), but it does go to show that thoughts and prayers are only so thoughtful.

“Thoughts and prayers,” often are an excuse to avoid the conversation that so many don’t want to have. “It’s too soon,” they’ll say, when you bring up gun control, or anything that involves regulation. “Show some respect to the victims.”

It’s not that I’m trying to disrespect the victims. I don’t want there to be more victims.

It just seems that whenever there’s a shooting – at a school, a movie theater, a church, a nightclub or a concert – there’s four phases. The first phase is the initial shock. Second comes the remorse (or thoughts and prayers, if that’s what you want to call it.) Then comes the bickering between the people who want to see stricter gun control and the people who either think it’s “too soon” or that gun regulation isn’t the answer.

The fourth phase – the phase that I believe is the reason why children keep dying and gunshots ring in schools every day and a half – is silence. Sometimes it takes a few days, maybe a week. But eventually, the talk of the recent shooting will quiet down, and it won’t find its way into headlines and conversations until another one occurs.

Let’s cut out the silence. Instead of shying away from the difficult conversations, let’s embrace them in hopes for change. Thoughts and prayers are great until people keep dying and the sentiments don’t stop the slaughter.

Do more than think and pray, so that we don’t have to see 30.

Shawn can be reached at smcfarland2@springfieldcollege.edu

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