Condemning Gun Violence Cannot Become the New “Thoughts and Prayers”

By: EMMA CHASTAIN

Recent hate crimes and mass shootings have put our nation into yet another state of unrest and fear. As of May 24th, 2021 230 mass shootings have already taken place in the U.S. according to the Gun Violence Archive. 

Most recently highlighted in the news, has been a shooting, and other violence towards Asian Americans. In Atlanta, eight fell victim to gun violence, six of whom were Asian American women. Closer to home in the San Francisco area, violence—not exclusively accredited to guns— against Asian Americans is on the rise, with ABC 7 reporting just about weekly on attacks against Asian Americans in the Bay Area. 

 In Boulder Colorado, a shooting with similarly devastating effects has made itself known across the country, where ten people were murdered with a gun by a gunman who had a history of assault. The youngest victim, Denny Stong, was just 20 years old. The Boulder gunman’s background checks upon buying a gun would have shown that he had a misdemeanor charge. This would not have barred him from legally purchasing a gun, even though these charges were due to a violent attack on a high school classmate.  

Words, when followed by actions mirroring their sentiments, are powerful. However, when words alone are used to combat the actions of those with sentiments of hate in their speech, an imbalance of effectiveness leads to fatal consequences. The former first couple, Barack and Michelle Obama issued a statement calling for action to follow the words of America, “We shouldn’t have to choose between one type of tragedy and another. It’s time for leaders everywhere to listen to the American people when they say enough is enough.”

The current President, Joe Biden, verbally condemned hate crimes and gun violence. He remarked in a speech, “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”. He later called for legislative action, “We have to act.” What the President alone could do is under the complicated realm of executive action. However, when members of Congress, such as Senator John Kennedy, have the mindset that we do not, in fact, “have a gun control problem in America,” and instead, “believe we have an idiot control problem.”, Executive action may be one of the more substantial ways to get the ball rolling on gun control. 

The condemnation of hate, words, and people cannot become the new “thoughts and prayers”. The sentiment of thoughts and prayers does nothing to combat the real actions of gunmen in this country. Shooters or attackers often share hateful words or imagery on social media or vocalize their hate prior to committing violent acts. The Pittsburg synagogue shooter from Oct. 7th, 2018 for example, spewed anti-Semitic hate from his Gab (a social media platform that the New York Times called a “haven for white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other extremists.” ) account prior to the shooting. The characterization of the Coronavirus with Anti-Asian hate by former president Donald Trump was followed by an increase in violent acts against Asian-Americans. About 3,800 were reported from March 2020 to February 2021 according to the Stop AAPI Hate nonprofit organization. These words of these violent, hateful people, motivated real action on their part. Their actions had devastating consequences. 

When not followed by significant action, do words really mean anything? Sadly, hate tends to be more tangible than hope. Hate can cause as much damage to minds, cultures, and societies, as it can to bodies. It is a powerful motivator. Condemning the hateful, and saying you will think and pray for victims do nothing until they motivate enough of an actionable response.

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