Thoughts and prayers are not enough

Published 4:54 pm Friday, May 27, 2022

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By MacKenzie Moody

I want you to imagine you have a young child in the second or third grade. He or she is an elementary student.

It is a Tuesday morning. You drop your child off at school, hugging them goodbye as you usually do. You hug them tightly, wish them a happy day, and then send them off with an I love you. They give you a big bright smile, ready to take on another school day. You get in your car and drive off, thinking and knowing you would see them later at dismissal.

Today is different. Instead of seeing your child, you face the unimaginable. Your stomach drops when you hear there was a shooting.

You know nothing about where your child is or if they are okay. You do not know if they are alive. Someone has informed you that the shooter, now identified as an 18-year-old, entered the school with an assault rifle.

He began firing, taking the lives of beautiful, innocent children.

You sent your kid to school believing (s)he would be safe, but now you will never get to see them again.

In the aftermath of losing your child to yet another mass shooting in this country, America’s leaders give you thoughts and prayers. Flags fly at half-staff. In seconds, an automatic weapon took your child’s life. So many people give you thoughts and prayers. You hear so many thoughts and prayers but never do you see solutions to ensure this doesn’t happen to another family ever again.

This scenario is now a reality for the parents of the children murdered on Tuesday, May 24 at the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Nineteen children and two teachers are dead at the hands of senseless gun violence. Nineteen parents do not have a child to pick up from school. Nineteen people have lost a piece of their soul.

Days after an 18-year-old walked into a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and killed ten people in a racist attack, another mass shooting has plagued this country. There are currently more mass shootings in America than days of the year.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 693 mass shootings in 2021. Before the Robb Elementary shooting, 2022 had already seen 198. The country is now averaging 10 attacks a week. This year has already seen 27 school shootings. At a certain point, we have to ask ourselves, when is enough, enough?

“The killer was Salvador Ramos, 18 years old. Did he cross the border illegally? Our nation has a serious national security crisis evolving. God help us,” the Twitter account @codeofvets said about the attack in Uvalde.

The problem is not national security or border control.

Uvalde is a majority Hispanic town of around 16,000 and is about 80 miles West of San Antonio. The suspect lived in the community and attended the local high school.

According to state officials, the first thing Ramos bought when he turned 18 was assault weapons. Before going to the school, he shot his grandmother, leaving her in critical condition.

The shooter at Parkland, Florida, was 19-years-old when he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and shot and killed 17 people with an AR-15. Legally he could not buy a beer, yet he was able to take the lives of 17 innocent people.

Texas citizens can legally own and carry a gun in public without a license or training. In the United States, an 18-year-old can walk into a store and buy a shotgun or rifle.

Atrocities like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the massacre in El Paso, the recent shooting in Buffalo, and the shooting at the Las Vegas Harvest Music Festival, should be evidence enough for everyone to realize that gun control is necessary for the safety of this country.

The second amendment is here to stay, but it should not be impossible to regulate gun access. There are so many regulations for other issues but are we doing the same thing for guns or mental health?

Instead of banning books and limiting education in the public school systems, put that energy into protecting these students and making schools safe. Learning about history and educating young children on matters of race is not a danger.

The real danger is that kids live in a reality where they think they could be next. Nowhere else do little children go to school thinking they might get shot. In addition to routine fire drills, they have to practice hiding under desks and following escape plans so that they can survive a potential mass shooting. It is sick for children to even have to think about it.

“There is no such thing as being “pro-life” while supporting laws that let children be shot in their schools, elders in grocery stores, worshippers in their houses of faith, survivors by abusers, or anyone in a crowded place,” said U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet.

Instead of working tirelessly to limit women’s reproductive rights, ensure the safety of children as young as second-graders in schools. Parents and relatives of dead children are waiting at civic centers to hear that they will never be able to hug their children again.

They receive thoughts and prayers; there will be Facebook debates; Congress will do nothing; everyone will become more desensitized, and another mass shooting will take innocent lives. America has continued this vicious, despicable, and horrendous cycle for far too long.

I am a country girl from a small rural town in North Carolina. Owning guns is a huge part of southern culture and a big part of American culture. Many members of my family are gun owners. While I respect the second amendment, it has to come with restrictions if we want this country to be safe. An 18-year-old should not have access to military-grade weapons.

“If more guns made us safer, we’d be the safest country on earth– but it doesn’t work that way,” South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said back in 2019.

The only way to ensure that these senseless killings cease to exist is to change our gun laws. This issue is more than a difference in political opinions. These are children murdered for no reason. What will it take for people in power to take action? How many people have to die?

While many of us are heartbroken after another school is victim of a mass shooting, it is nothing compared to the heartbreak these parents feel after losing their child.

So, I ask you, is the right to bear arms more important than the lives of innocent American citizens and children?

MacKenzie Moody, a rising senior majoring in Journalism at Hampton University, is a summer intern at the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.