wait a moment

Ban “Thoughts and Prayers” until We Ban Assault Rifles

The “thoughts and prayers” cycle has started, meaning by next week we will have moved past thinking of the 17 people — many of them children — who were murdered in Florida on Valentine’s Day.

According to Time Magazine, 14 students — Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff, Meadow Pollack, Luke Hoyer, Carmen Schentrup, Gina Montalto, Alex Schachter, Peter Wang, Alaina Petty, Martin Duque Anguiano, Helena Ramsey, Joaquin Oliver and Cara Loughran — and three adults — Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Christopher Hixon — were slain in a preventable tragedy, due in part to the repeated inaction and refusal of politicians to put measures in place which would prevent mass shootings.  

“Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms, and that is not acceptable” David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the shooting, told CNN. Hogg’s takeaway was that more needs to be done to keep schools safe.  

Another student, Isabella Gomez, speaking with CNN, said, “What could our teachers do in that situation, rather than save themselves, just as we were?  … I feel like [Trump] really needs to take into consideration all this gun control.”

“Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers,” wrote a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student on Twitter, “prayers won’t fix this. But Gun [sic] control will prevent it from happening again.”

But the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a formula to prevent positive measures from being enacted. Step one: express condolences. Step two: claim its too early to talk about reform. Step three: “forget” to talk about reform. We saw the same exact thing happen after the Las Vegas shooting, when the conversation of bump stocks was delayed just long enough to be  forgotten. According to The Independent, momentum for gun control legislation “slipped within a few weeks. At the same time, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans sought ways to loosen existing restrictions on guns.”

It’s time to make it impossible for assault rifles to get into the hands of the wrong people. The murderer, in this most recent iteration of gun violence in this country, purchased his weapon legally, according to The New York Times (NYT). Just like the killers in Newtown, San Bernardino and Las Vegas, this despicable human being used an AR-15 assault rifle to reign terror in what was supposed to be an innocuous location. This weapon, the AR-15, has been used in five out of six of the deadliest attacks over the past six years. Despite that, the AR-15 is easier to buy than a handgun for many people in Florida according to NYT. “Thoughts and prayers” are not going to stop the slaughter we have become far too accustomed to in the United States of America, but maybe banning the weapon of choice for mass murderers will.

The time has come and passed for waiting it out. It is clear as day that no one should be able to own an AR-15. According to NBC News, advocates of this murderous tool claim “it is a toy, a sleek beast of black plastic and metal that delivers a gratifying blast of adrenaline … And for many, it is a symbol, the embodiment of core American values — freedom, might, self-reliance.” That is sickening.

If your idea of American values is represented by a tool that is repeatedly used to murder innocent people, or if you think the children’s lives are only as important as your desire to have a “gratifying blast of adrenaline,” you need to pause and contemplate that. Promote civic engagement, for that is an American value truly lacking in society, or try a new sport. Maybe get your adrenaline through something that is not associated with mass killings.  

Yet gun owners are not the problem. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the NRA spent $54 million in outside spending during the 2016 election to get their candidates into office. Gun advocates like to claim that Planned Parenthood (PP) is the liberal counterpart to the NRA, but PP spent three times less money in outside spending in 2016 than the NRA did, according to the NYT. The NRA’s $54 million is almost as much money as the top three — including PP — comparable non-profit liberal groups spent in 2016 together.

Despite the Internal Revenue Service rules stipulating that non-profit groups, which the NRA is classified as, can not have politics as their primary purpose, the gun lobby is stronger than ever. Lawmakers continue to post on Twitter promising the victims of this killing spree their “thoughts and prayers” despite the vocal opposition from those victims to the lawmakers’ milquetoast reactions. These politicians, who would rather post tweets than enact life-saving legislation, or even make an attempt at curtailing the onslaught of violence, will continue to do so as long as the NRA is funding their campaigns.

Marco Rubio of Florida argued on the Senate floor that gun control would not have done anything to curb the violence seen last week in his home state, and that making a gun illegal would not prevent the killer from obtaining a weapon. But it is harder to get things which are illegal than it is to get them if they are legal. More gun regulations have been proven time and time again to lead to fewer gun deaths (see: every other county in the developed world). Coincidentally, according to NY Daily News, Rubio has taken 3.3 million dollars from the NRA over the course of his political career.

It’s safe to say “Little Marco” will continue to diminish meaningful reform as long as the NRA keeps ensuring he can keep his job.

John McCain said on Twitter that he and his wife are “praying for all those impacted … our hearts are with the victims.” Kind words, but they are nearly identical to what he tweeted just a few months ago, after the last mass shooting. McCain could help break the cycle of cookie cutter tweets, yet that’s unlikely as he has accepted over seven million from the NRA throughout his career, according to CRP.

Legislative fixes are possible. Current federal law states that an individual must be 21 to purchase a handgun, but only 18— according to penal code 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1), (c)(1) —  to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle. No one should be allowed to own an assault rifle, but considering the current makeup of our federal government and how many are financed by the NRA, that is unlikely.  So at the very least, the federal law should be that if you are unable to be trusted with alcohol and your own body, you should not be trusted with a weapon of a caliber designed to put holes in other people’s.

Those who oppose gun control are pawns for the NRA. Alas, however powerful the gun lobby is, despite the troves of money they are allowed to spend in our elections due to the ghastly Citizens United decision, they can not win if we vote out their pawns.

“We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I’m asking — no, demanding — we take action now.” Cameron Katsky, a survivor of the recent attack in Florida wrote in a piece for CNN. Katsky continues, “Why? Because at the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience — our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools.”

The midterm elections are upcoming. This election is incredibly important for so many reasons, be it the 2020 census and gerrymandering, healthcare, gun control, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival  or possible Supreme Court nominations. Our generation has the power to beat the NRA, get big money out of politics and save lives.

Maryland politicians, besides Republican Representative Andy Harris, are not in the pockets of the NRA, but in order to ensure that the tyranny of the uncompromising gun advocacy is defeated, we must elect, and support, politicians who promise to enact policy for public funding of elections. So that the NRA system will not be able to have the influence they have and use to perpetuate our issue of guns in America.

Register to vote today. Thoughts and prayers will pass; taking legislative action will last forever. Vote often, vote progressive, and vote down the whole ballot.

We must get the NRA’s influence out. We must prevent another atrocity like this. We must listen to the kids who survived this massacre. In the words of Katsky, “Please do it for me. Do it for my fellow classmates. We can’t vote, but you can, so make it count.”


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