Thoughts and prayers won’t save lives, change will


Illustration by Natalie Oh

Casey Braff

One ordinary school day during English class, the fire alarm went off, prompting everyone to leave their seats and evacuate the building. However, before my peers and I could exit, my English teacher stopped us and explained the new procedure was to stay in the classroom. This was in case the alarm was pulled by a gunman wanting to get everyone together in one spot. The class erupted into anxious whispers as our teacher turned off the lights, locked the door, and pulled down the shades. A girl next to me quickly grabbed her phone to text her parents that she loved them. In what world should students fear for their lives when they come to school? As a result of the frequency of these school shootings in the United States, many students are living in fear that their school will be the next target. Assault rifles, like the AR-15, need to be banned to prevent more of these tragedies from happening.

Civilians have no need for assault rifle style weapons. President Bill Clinton banned “assault weapons” in 1994, which according to data compiled by author Louis Klarevas, led to a 37 percent drop in gun massacres while the ten-year ban was in place. Senator Dianne Feinstein also stated, there was a 183 percent increase in gun massacres in the decade after the ban expired. This data is mirrored by the US National Library of Medicine, which concluded that “mass-shooting fatalities were 70 percent less likely to occur during the federal ban period.” 

As Senator Feinstein pointed out, while advocating for a federal assault weapons ban, “It took the Dayton shooter less than 30 seconds to shoot 35 people, nine of whom died. These weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,” Feinstein said.

These guns are designed for the battlefield, therefore they have no use in the hands of civilians. They are military grade weapons and aren’t necessary for hunting nor self defense.  AR-15s have been involved in some of the most deadly shootings of the past decade, including the Las Vegas shooting of 58 individuals and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut took 27 lives, including 20 children ages six and seven. While children are dying in these mass shootings, the rest of us are left wondering if our school could be next.  History has proven that assault rifles have done nothing but hurt Americans, and accompanying data has shown that banning them has been effective in saving lives. 

This poses the question: Why aren’t we banning these weapons of war? One answer is the connection that guns have to American patriotism. Many people view the AR-15 style gun as an “America’s rifle.” This is the result of the branding done by the National Rifle Association. Another reason why these types of guns have not been banned could be because of the integration of new media into American culture. Television shows and video games such as Call of Duty feature the AR-15 and other rifles. This type of media being consumed by children has led guns to become normalized in our society.

Americans want to protect their traditions and constitution, but the constution can not defend the extent to which these weapons are used. The second amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  When the constitution was written, none of the guns used today existed. They weren’t being used for mass shootings and murders, as guns weren’t capable of such amounts of destruction at the time. 

What is most concerning surrounding these tragic shootings is the lack of action and reform that follows. Nothing seems to prevent these events from occurring again, which is why gun control is so vital. When Tide PODS killed 6 people in 5 years, many establishments kept them in locked cabinets. The company that owns Tide additionally released statements informing the public not to eat the “pods,” while lawmakers across the country pushed for them to be banned. Guns kill 100 people every day, according to Everytown For Gun Safety, and yet essentially anyone has access to them. Individuals can buy guns in some cases without doing a background check or having a firearm license according to Giffords Law Center.

After mass shootings, the only thing that seems to happen is thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers will not stop dangerous people from getting access to guns and they will not save lives. Time and time again, we see headlines about mass shootings and children losing their lives. How many more children have to die before a change is made? The only way we can prevent more of these massacres is by banning assault rifles, because guns should never be valued more than human lives.