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US mass shootings: why thoughts and prayers are no longer enough

By Erin Longney and Zara Oong

In the US, mass shootings have horrifyingly become a daily norm. There have been more shootings in the US in 2019 than days in the year, putting 2019 on track to become the first year since 2016 that averages more than one mass shooting a day. Just a few weeks ago, America was once again left reeling after two consecutive mass shootings. In the space of just fourteen hours, at least 31 people were killed and dozens more were wounded in mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

On August 3, a gunman opened fire in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The death toll currently sits at 22, with 24 others injured. He targeted people who appeared to be Mexican, citing some of Donald Trump’s policies and ideologies in a racist manifesto he posted to a white supremacist chat online before the attack. Just 13 hours after the mass shooting in El Paso, a gunman opened fire in a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio. Despite the fact that the shooting lasted a mere 32 seconds, the 24-year old gunman, armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle, killed 9 people and injured 27 others.

America has long been known for their gun culture. The US leads the world in gun ownership - American citizens possess a collective total of 393 million guns, equating to 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there has been a total of 273 fatalities from mass shootings so far this year. Mass shootings have become so common that the ones with lower death tolls often receive little, if any, media coverage. When did we get to the point where even one lost life is not worth remembering? And why has the world allowed gun violence in the US to become normalised?

The response to a mass shooting is almost always the same. Twitter goes into a frenzy over gun control and the need for gun reform. Proud American gun owners retort with the 2nd Amendment and their ‘right to bear arms’. Politicians offer empty ‘thoughts and prayers’ to the victims and families of the tragic attacks. The conversation dies down after a few days, until another mass shooting and it starts all over again.

After the attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this tweet was shared nearly 390,000 times and liked by over 800,000 users.

Politicians seemingly love to offer ‘thoughts and prayers’. The phrase is defined as “an expression of indifference to tragedy intended to seem empathetic.”

Perhaps the words are genuine, but after hearing the same phrase repeatedly uttered after every mass shooting, it has become an insensitive reminder that the US is no closer to introducing any kind of gun reform. Empty words promising no change.

Thoughts and prayers are no longer enough.

Gun reform in the United States is needed, urgently. We cannot sit idly by anymore, waiting for another life to be lost.


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