Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough to resolve mass shootings


Elle Love

A graphic of a bullet proof vest against a brick wall, with the words thoughts and prayers spray painted across.
Graphic by Philly Nevada/the Gateway

Mass shooting tragedies are unpredictable, unimaginable and disheartening. When we hear reports of victims affected, it motivates us to help by donating blood and vocalizing support for stricter gun control.Psychol

Elected officials offer their condolences immediately following the tragedies of these events to express sympathy towards the survivors and victims’ families. However, their well-intended words become less meaningful to the public when a similar event happens later on, time after time.

In his article in Psychology Today, “American Shootings: ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ Are Not Enough,” Dr. Sam Levine described “thoughts and prayers” as “pious-sounding words” that will leave American citizens saddened, angry, and confused.

“Some of those who speak those words are genuinely shocked while others are dutiful, and others insincere,” Levine said. “Their statements might include other words liken ‘unspeakable,’ ‘unforgivable,’ ‘disordered,’ ‘evil,’ ‘violent,’ ‘terrorist,’ or lone wolf.”

With a lack of action following their condolences, we’re left frustrated with elected officials because of the belief they have the power to make changes regarding gun control.

“When elected officials offer their condolences, they are offering them on behalf of their constituents,” said UNO political science professor Dr. Paul Landow.

Landow said the reason it takes some time for elected officials to form gun control policies is because of how our political system is built.

“Most states in the federal government have two houses of Congress – the chief executive and the court system,” Landow said.

All of the branches have to work together to pass a piece of legislature because it’s the way it was intended, Landow said. The different opinions and values of elected officials are another reason why it is difficult to act immediately.

“We don’t have the same solution,” Landow said. “It’s extremely difficult to come up with public policy and move it forward when there’s literally different ideas on how it should be done.”

The only way both Republicans and Democrats can make an effective policy to address the issue of gun control is compromise, explained Landow.

“In that situation, neither side will get everything they want but neither side will lose everything,” Landow said. “We can get a piece of legislation that may not be perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.”

UNO criminology professor Dr. Justin Nix cited Pew Research polls that suggested most Americans from both political spectrums suggest that gun laws should be stricter than they are today.

“We have to get away from it becoming a shouting match about whether guns should be taken away or whether we have Second Amendment rights,” Nix said. “Look at what most people support and start with that – which are universal background checks, waiting periods and the like.”

Nix said mass shootings are a small part of the bigger problem, which is gun violence.

“I’m talking about mass shootings, but also urban violence involving guns, domestic violence involving guns, suicide and accidental shootings attributed to guns each year,” Nix said.

“If we elect officials into positions who are going to listen to the community and their voters, some of the bills and regulations will get passed,” Nix said.

The best available resources suggest that if regulations were in place on owning and possessing guns, we could have a meaningful impact on all of the issues resulting in gun violence, including mass shootings, Nix said.

Regulation loopholes, including gun shows, are what need to be closed but it’s harder to regulate guns that are already in circulation, Nix said. As long as gun owners legally and responsibly own guns, there is no need to take the right of ownership away from them.

“As far as guns that are possessed illegally or guns that have been used in crime, then those need to come off the streets.” Nix said.

Nix said there needs to be a look into funding mental health facilities.

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen less money invested in in-patient treatment and more prescribed in prescription meds and out-patient treatment,” Nix said. “It’s becoming more of an issue that police are facing in their daily interaction with citizens.”

These tragedies will continue to happen unless elected officials from both sides come together with compromise legislature that gets to the root of the issue of gun control, Landow said.

“I don’t think you ban guns, but guns have to be kept out of the hands of certain people,” Landow said. “Unless we get together and compromise, nothing will happen.”

‘Thoughts and prayers’ do not hold meaning unless there is action from elected officials in power that can make a difference.

What we can do as UNO students is vocalize to our representatives about our need for gun control. You can find information about Rep. Don Bacon, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Rep. Adrian Smith on the Nebraskans for Peace website.

We can also routinely donate blood at the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center or the Nebraska Community Blood Bank to prevent expiration of blood supply.

There’s often an increase in people going to blood banks to help the victims after a mass shooting happened, Nix said. From a public health standpoint, we need to have some type of education campaign to communicate about regular blood donating, as opposed to donating only after these tragedies.