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“Thoughts and Prayers” do not solve the gun violence epidemic. (Op-Ed)

Americans have been bombarded by news segments detailing gruesome, hideous mass shootings to the point where offering “Thoughts and Prayers” feels like the anticipated, copy-paste response to victims and their families. The phrase has lost its original meaning; no longer does it provide comfort and a sense of community. How can it be a heartfelt message when it is perpetually posted on social media after every mass shooting?

As of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 13th, there have been 44 mass shootings this year according to the Gun Violence Archive. It is also the 44th day of 2024. Right now, the United States is averaging one mass shooting per day. GVA defines a “mass shooting” as an event where four victims are either killed or injured by a firearm, not including the shooter. In 2023, there were 656 mass shootings. Can you name every mass shooting incident that has happened this year? How about last year?

A study conducted by Everytown found that mass shootings involving assault weapons resulted in 2.3 times the number of victims killed and 22.7 times the number of victims wounded compared to mass shooting events where an assault rifle was not used. Popular assault rifles, like the AR-15, are high-powered, semiautomatic rifles that can fire a devastating number of rounds in a short period of time. Everytown also found that assault rifles that utilize a high-capacity magazine (HCM) result in 2.5 times the number of people killed and nearly ten times the number of total casualties occur when compared to mass shootings involving assault rifles that did not have HCMs.

The answer lies not in “Thoughts and Prayers,” said after every mass shooting since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the outcries of victims and their families as they grieve. Not all senseless acts of violence can be stopped, but many can be prevented. Now is the time to act. Instead of saying “Thoughts and Prayers,” we should be saying “Never Again,” rallying for common sense gun reform, and providing lifesaving mental health services to individuals who exhibit warning signs.

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