We Need More Than Thoughts and Prayers

Dessy Liza-Epie, Staff Writer

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At what point do we need to turn thoughts and prayers to meaningful action?

A recent study of World Health Organization data published in the American Journal of Medicine found that among high-income nations 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by bullets lived in the United States. The data also showed that on average two dozen children are shot every day in the United States, and in 2016 more American youths were killed by gunfire — 1,637 than during any previous year this millennium. With each bright future snatched away by guns, thoughts and prayers are sent. However, experts agree that those thoughts and prayers, while kind, were not enough to stop the violence before and will not be enough to stop the violence now.

There is a cycle in America. A mass shooting occurs, the public becomes enraged, and people send their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. This is followed by a national debate about gun control on the news and on social media. Then, lawmakers do nothing, eventually people forget, and the cycle starts again as soon as the next mass shooting occurs.

The truth is that mass shootings, particularly in schools, have become the new norm. While people’s thoughts and prayers are heartfelt, they come with no real action. They do little more than garner likes and retweets. To those who have been in school shootings they are empty words that hold no promise for real safety. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were not protected before the shooting and are not protected after. David Hogg, one of the students at the school, spoke on “NBC’s Meet the Press” shortly after the massacre. He issued an angry and passionate call for President Trump to take action on the issue after Trump tweeted that Democrats hadn’t passed any gun control measures during the brief time they controlled Congress with a supermajority in the Senate.
“You’re the President,” Hogg said. “You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us. How dare you! Children are dying, and their blood is on your hands because of that. Please take action. Stop going on vacation in Mar-a-Lago. Take action. Work with Congress. Your party controls both the House and Senate. Take action, get some bills passed, and for God’s sake, let’s save some lives.”

Hogg’s comments were ignored by Trump and, seemingly, Florida Republican legislators. On February 20th, they rejected a motion by Democrats to debate legislation to prevent the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles and extended magazines in Florida.

According to CNN’s Ray Sanchez, “Lawmakers voted down a motion to consider the ban during a session that opened with a prayer for the 17 people killed by a former student last Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The vote in the Republican-dominated body was 36-71.”
Sanchez reported that Julio Gonzalez, one of the representatives who voted no, tweeted out, “My prayers for the people of Broward County as they wrestle with the aftermath of a most horrific and senseless attack. Guns WILL get into schools. We MUST find better and faster methods of responding as mass shootings are transpiring. Every second counts.”

Randy Fine, another representative who voted no posted on Facebook,
“As the parents of two young children, Wendy and I are heartbroken at the loss of so many at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday. Your government has no higher responsibility than to protect our kids, and we have a moral obligation to make sure what happened yesterday never happens again. I spoke to our Sheriff last night, and today he and I are going to begin preparing legislation to protect our children. If you have ideas, put them in the comments below.” In the words of survivor Emma Gonzalez, “We call BS.”

Florida legislators did gain some level of respect back from the Stoneman Douglas survivors and gun reform advocates on March 7th, however, when they passed legislation that many celebrated as a win for gun control. According to Bernie Woodall and Steve Gorman of US News, the legislature “…gave final passage on Wednesday to a bill to raise the legal age for buying rifles, impose a three-day waiting period on all gun sales and allow the arming of some school employees.” Woodall and Gorman went on to report “But the legislation, while containing a number of provisions student activists and their parents from Parkland, Florida, had embraced, left out one of their chief demands— a ban on assault style weapons like the one used in the February 14 rampage.

At Paint Branch, students like Tiaret Mitchell feel that legislation is the key to change. “We can say something. We can try as a whole, but nothing is going to make a profound difference if there isn’t legislation being put through,” stated the junior.

Paint Branch senior Stephen Agyepong agrees with Mitchell on how to enact change and is optimistic about the possibility of strong legislation being put through. He stated, “I think that gun control legislation will be coming soon. I believe that the American people understand just how dire it is that legislation be passed as quickly as possible, and I hope that our actions will influence Congress to push for immediate action,” stated the senior.

The issue for some other Paint Branch students such as Cassandra Berko, lies in the flippant reasoning behind some people’s arguments. “I feel like people have been protesting a lot about gun control, but it seems like a performance for some. I don’t know how serious people are about actually doing the work. Basically I don’t know how long people caring will last,” says the senior.

Paint Branch teachers seem to share the pessimistic view on significant change happening with Social Studies teachers, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Walker, not believing that we will have any adequate legislation on a national level anytime soon. Mr. Miller’s reasoning is that “because we’re still in congressional gridlock, not enough votes exist to make any meaningful change on the national front. States that already had strict gun laws are going to maintain that while states with lax gun laws are going to fight any change and we’ll go back to where we started.”

Mrs. Walker, however, believes the problem is also the result of what she calls the economic and social deafness of those in power. “Not until you change and treat economic and social ills that have plagued those of the underrepresented groups for decades will you see change,” she says. “Once you give everyone a voice, you have to be prepared to hear and accept what is said. As a society we aren’t there yet.”

English teacher, Mr. Smith II believes that it is the duty of state legislatures to pave the way. “It’s not the president’s job, it’s the duty of state legislatures to form the basis for gun control regulation at the state level and thereby force congress to act on the federal level. This result is required by our constitution’s understanding of federalism.” Regardless of differences in thoughts and levels of optimism, both teachers and students alike, seem to believe that actions, more than thoughts and prayers, are imperative at this time.

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We Need More Than Thoughts and Prayers