Home ‘Thoughts and prayers’ are not enough: Gun violence isn’t just going to go away on its own

‘Thoughts and prayers’ are not enough: Gun violence isn’t just going to go away on its own

Chris Graham
gun violence
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It’s just what we do these days when we hear about the latest mass shooting. People offer “thoughts and prayers,” groups pushing for commonsense gun reforms put out statements, and then the world moves on.

It almost certainly won’t be any different with the tragedy that hit the University of Virginia this week.

Three young Black men were shot and killed on a bus that they’d taken to watch a play for a college class.

A fourth young Black man is miraculously expected to make a full recovery despite being shot in the back.

A fifth, unidentified, person is in serious condition from a gunshot wound.

The shooter: a young Black man with a troubled background who friends and family hoped would be the rare one from the projects to make it out and do something with his life.

“Gun violence remains the leading cause of premature death for Black men, as well as the number two cause of premature death for Latino men and Black women,” said Greg Jackson, the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization building power for and with communities of color to end gun violence.

Jackson is also a UVA alum, and is as shaken as the rest of us.

He’s on the other side of the continent, but this one hit close to home.

“Our leaders must heed the urgent, resounding call in our national conversation. Our communities need to grow and thrive safely,” Jackson said. “We must address this cycle of preventable tragedy as the public health crisis that it is, with a public health response.”

That’s what gets lost in the “thoughts and prayers” and the politics of gun reform.

The Second Amendment absolutists immediately seize up when they hear the words “gun reform,” because “freedom.”

Gun reform isn’t about freedom, or taking away freedom; it’s about gun violence being a public health crisis, and the need, as Jackson said, for us to approach the crisis with a public health response.

In an average year in Virginia, 1,065 people die by guns, and 1,911 people are wounded, according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, a 10 million-member non-profit engaged in the effort to address the impact of gun violence on our daily lives.

College campuses are a sadly new and emerging crisis zone. Just last month in Harrisonburg, eight people were shot and wounded near James Madison University, and in February, a late-night shooting at a hookah lounge near the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg left one person dead and four injured.

And of course, we all remember the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech in which a student shot and killed 32 people, then turned the gun on himself.

“Classrooms and campuses should be safe havens where young people feel welcomed and where learning is celebrated,” VEA President Dr. James J. Fedderman and NEA President Becky Pringle said in a joint statement.

“We are brokenhearted about the lost lives and the trauma for the students and educators who survived this terrible event and will continue to feel its effects for years to come. We are also angry,” Fedderman and Pringle said.

“The gun violence at the University of Virginia comes just days after another shooting at Ingraham High School in Seattle. We can best honor the victims of this shooting — and Uvalde, Oxford, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and far too many other schools — by demanding a stop to this madness. To abide by the senseless deaths of students means abandoning hope for tomorrow.

“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Fedderman and Pringle said. “They do not capture the heartache, grief, or anger we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — tomorrow, next week, or a couple of months from now.”

We all know this, of course – all of us, those who have long supported commonsense gun reforms, those who have come on board out of the realization that “thoughts and prayers” haven’t been getting the job done, even the Second Amendment absolutists, who argue, against good reason, that the solution to gun violence is more guns.

That even the “pry it from my cold, dead hands” people know we have ourselves a public health crisis puts our eternal inaction in a disturbing light.

“A comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence – supported by a broad and bipartisan coalition of Americans – is not a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ issue, but an American one,” CJAF’s Jackson said. “When kids, youth, and adults are dying at alarming rates due to gun violence, policymakers have a moral obligation to act on clear and tangible steps to end this public health crisis and the senseless tragedies left in its wake.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].