Fifty-eight in Las Vegas just last month. Forty-nine in Orlando last year. Thirty-two in Blacksburg in 2007. Twenty-six in Newtown in 2012. Fourteen in San Bernardino in 2015. Thirteen in Littleton in 1999. Twelve in Aurora in 2012.
These are just a handful of high-profile mass shootings that have shocked the United States over the past two decades – but, unfortunately, it hasn’t shocked us into taking meaningful action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Which is why on Sunday, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, this uniquely American bloodbath took the lives of more of our citizens – people who were attending a service at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
As Jason Easley noted a short time ago, the death toll could range from 10-15 people, but according to a new report from ABC News, there are at least 20 casualties, with other reports indicating it could be even higher.
As if this tragedy wasn’t already bad enough, an NBC News affiliate noted that according to a witness on the scene, one of the victims hit with gunfire was two years old.
Like clockwork, pro-gun politicians, from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz all the way to Donald Trump, were quick to offer their thoughts and prayers:
Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon. https://t.co/KMCRmOPkiM
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 5, 2017
Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 5, 2017
May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2017
With all due respect to Gov. Abbott, Sen. Cruz and Mr. Trump – and all the politicians who will inevitably chime in with similar messages of condolence – if thoughts and prayers could prevent this type of violence from taking place, I’m pretty sure today’s church shooting in Texas would have never happened.
Enough is enough.
The same, tired expressions of sympathy we hear from our leaders – particularly from the many Republican lawmakers over the years who have helped put weapons of war in the hands of deranged individuals like the man who opened fire on churchgoers today – will no longer do.
Spare us all the nonsense that this is simply a mental health issue, not a gun problem. After all, the United States is not the only civilized country on the planet with firearms or mentally unstable people. But you know what? We are the only advanced nation that sees this level of gun violence on a regular basis.
This year alone, including today’s carnage, we have seen more than 300 mass shootings, in small towns and big cities, many of which don’t get airtime or national attention.
Whether or not you own a gun, you should want to change that. We as a society should want to fix this. We should want to live in a country where movie theaters and classrooms aren’t war zones and two-year-old children can safely attend a church service.
And what makes this so much worse is that our inability to act seems only to apply to gun violence.
Think about it for a moment: There are national freak-outs when somebody gets burned by hot coffee, or when we discover a chemical in toys that could harm our kids. What do we do in those instances? We act by changing laws or tightening regulations or finding some way, big or small, to better protect our people.
No solution to any problem is perfect, but we at least try.
So where the hell is the call to action each time there is a slaughter in an American school or movie theater or church? When will we as a civilized society decide that human life is more important than being able to get our hands on a deadly weapon at a moment’s notice? How much higher must the body count be before NRA-funded politicians and the voters who enable them decide that now is the time to act?
Study after study after study show that smarter gun laws work. Other advanced countries that implement stricter firearm regulations – banning assault weapons, expanding background checks, increasing waiting periods, among other things – have found them to be incredibly effective.
Here in America, left-leaning states that have enacted smarter gun regulations have seen lower rates of gun violence – imagine that.
So, to our evergrowing list of cowardly leaders – including the NRA-funded President of the United States – who pretend to care only in the immediate aftermath of these tragedies, please save your empty prayers. When you repeatedly shed crocodile tears over mass shootings, then follow it up by refusing to do anything to prevent the next one, nobody hears you anymore.
Your sympathetic rhetoric was useless after Las Vegas and Orlando and Sandy Hook and Aurora and Tucson and Columbine, and it’ll be useless again today, when more innocent lives were taken by gun violence.
As former President Barack Obama said two years ago, after another mass shooting, “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.”
Today, the body count grew even higher. More families will be forced to go through this uniquely American ritual of mourning the loss of their loved ones after another mass shooting. And many of the leaders who were quick to offer their condolences – Donald Trump, in particular – will likely do nothing to prevent the next massacre.
It’s time for these spineless guardians of the status quo to either do something or just shut up.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.