On thoughts and prayers
Legislators' predictable responses to Parkland shooting aren't enough
On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was the site of a deadly mass shooting. At the time of writing, at least 17 were dead and there were multiple others wounded.
Parkland was the 18th school shooting of 2018. Having just met the halfway point of February, the number is staggering. It means that in 2018, there has been a school shooting every 2.5 days.
The prevalence of gun violence in schools is something that needs to be addressed by U.S. legislators. However, their responses to the much-too-frequent instances of mass shootings in any location all sound the same.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted his thoughts and prayers.
President Donald Trump did, too.
And First Lady Melania Trump offered hers as well.
Obviously, in the moment, thoughts and prayers are heartfelt considerations given to grieving families. There really isn't anything you could say to a mother/father/sister/brother who just lost their loved one for no reason that would make things right.
But mass shootings in schools aren't a new phenomenon. Since the Newtown tragedy in December 2012, there have been more than 200 school shootings. Legislators have the ability to respond to these tragedies with actual policy, such as making firearms less accessible to those who can't meet certain standards. Instead, mass shootings tend to lead to making firearms even more accessible.
In an October 2017 article from The Atlantic (following the Las Vegas shooting, in which 58 were killed and more than 800 were injured), the author writes that "the five years since a gunman killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have seen one of the most intense bursts of gun legislation in U.S. history—almost all of it intended to ensure that more guns can be carried into more places."
After Newtown, more than two dozen states relaxed gun restrictions, making it easier to carry concealed firearms into places like bars, schools and churches. A common argument made after mass shootings involves placing more guns in the hands of people for safety purposes, but that theory doesn't hold true. In a 37-year study conducted by researchers at Stanford University, data revealed that states that decreased carrying restrictions saw a 13 to 15 percent increase in violent crimes.
The weapon used by the shooter in Parkland was an AR-15, a high-powered assault rifle based off a weapon formerly used in the military. The AR-15 was also used in the Las Vegas shooting, the San Bernardino shooting, the Aurora shooting, the Newtown shooting and the Sutherland Springs shooting. Placing more bullets—even if they are meant to stop a mass shooter—would only cause even more confusion and potentially lead to more loss of life.
By offering thoughts and prayers in place of actual legislation, lawmakers tend to appear insensitive and tone deaf. A substantial amount of research has been done, and there are common attributes of many of these mass shootings. Seeing the different headlines for the different shootings brings up a painful question: How much blood has to be spilled for legislators to bring more than thoughts and prayers to the table?