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“Thoughts & Prayers” will not stop the next mass shooting in the US

August 07, 2019 at 04:31 pm | Opinions & Features

Elikem M. Aflakpui

Elikem M. Aflakpui

August 07, 2019 at 04:31 pm | Opinions & Features

Photo Credit: New York Times

The US gun violence statistics are scary, especially in 2019. According to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a nonprofit research organization which tracks every mass shooting in the country, the recent two shootings, first in El Paso, Texas, and then in Dayton, Ohio, bring the number of mass shootings in the US to 255. August 4, the date of the Dayton shooting, was the 216th day of the year. Hence, this tells us that there is an average of more than one mass shooting a day.

Just so we are clear, the GVA defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the shooter. The FBI has not documented an official definition of a mass shooting, but the Bureau defines a mass killing as an incident in which three or more people, not including the suspect, are killed. Other groups and watchdog establishments keep their own lists, often using different criteria for what qualifies as a mass shooting.

Gun violence statistics are not mere numbers. They are injuries and deaths. These numbers represent families who have lost loved ones. These are human beings who will live with injuries and trauma for the rest of their lives. These are people who had dependents. These numbers tell us about men, women and children who had goals, dreams and aspirations. They must not be taken for granted.

The recent shooting last weekend left a total of 31 people dead and 51 injured. In all, in 2019, a total of 246 Americans have suffered gun deaths and the injury toll comes to 979. Historically, the numbers have not looked any better.

Even if the death toll was 1, it is still unacceptable. Death which is brought on a man by another man for any reason at all cannot be excused. This is why there must be a swift and thorough response to gun violence and ending mass shooting in the US.

Several law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter at an El Paso, Texas-based Walmart. Photo credit: AP

The popular refrain to “thoughts and prayers” any time a gun violence occurs has become hackneyed. There is no comfort in thoughts and prayers when survivors and families of victims get no assurance that the next gun violence will be prevented.

Thoughts and prayers give no closure. It has become a worthless phrase pieced together by people who have been entrusted with the safety of the citizenry and are failing at their jobs. America is a country of facts and figures. Let the facts provide evidence about how thoughts and prayers have, at the very least, reduced the occurrence of mass shootings in the country.

The words of the first stanza of If We Just Talk of Thoughts and Prayers, a hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette captures my thoughts on thoughts and prayer as a response to gun violence.

If we just talk of thoughts and prayers
And don’t live out a faith that dares,
And don’t take on the ways of death,
Our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.

Thoughts and prayers as a means to alleviate the effects of gun violence in America have gone beyond not being enough. It has failed. Simple!

America needs to stop beating about the bush and address the problem of gun violence head-on. Here are the words of President Obama in the wake of the very recent shootings.

No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do. Every time this happens, we’re told that tougher gun laws won’t stop all murders; that they won’t stop every deranged individual from getting a weapon and shooting innocent people in public places. But the evidence shows that they can stop some killings. They can save some families from heartbreak. We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.

There is no need to say more. Stricter gun control laws. The conversation must be resumed. Congress must act swiftly. The president must do better than obfuscating the need for gun control. Lives have perished and more lives are at stake if we continue on this tangent.

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