“Thoughts and prayers are not enough”: over 13,000 US gun-related deaths this year

Only a little more than a month after gunman Stephen Paddock murdered 58 concertgoers on the Las Vegas strip, the tragedy of yet another major mass shooting has reared its head in the United States.

At about 11:30am local time, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley entered the First Baptist Church in the tight-knit community of Sutherland Springs in Texas wearing a bullet proof vest and armed with an assault rifle.

Within the span of about a quarter of a minute, according to one witness, at least 26 people were dead or dying and dozens more left injured.

As is always the case, news about the incident spread quickly on mainstream and social media.

Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, US President Donald Trump condemned the attack as an “act of evil” and committed his administration’s support to the state of Texas and investigating authorities.

“We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they love,” he said.

“We pull together, we join hands, we lock arms and through the tears and through the sadness we stand strong.”

Like the President, politicians and public figures from all political sides offered their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families and vowed that America would remain united.

But a cynicism has gripped the country these past few years and many have been quick to point out that such platitudes are not enough to end the endemic problem of gun violence.

DRC Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Thoughts & prayers are not enough, GOP. We must end this violence. We must stop these tragedies. People are dying while you wait.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a not-for-profit formed in 2013 to keep track of gun violence statistics in the US, this year alone has seen over 13,000 people killed and nearly 27,000 injured in gun-related incidents.

This is higher than the total annual gun death toll in 2014, which recorded 12,564 gun violence deaths, and slightly lower than 2015 (13,505 deaths) and 2016 (15,084 deaths), although the year is not over yet.

These figures exclude the approximate 22,000 suicides involving firearms that occur each year.

Throughout the near four year period since 2014, the GVA lists 1296 individual incidents of mass shootings, wherein four or more people, not including the shooter, were killed or injured.

The most recent is the developing Sutherland Springs case, but records also include this year’s Vegas attack, 2016’s Pulse nightclub shooting, which left 49 dead in Orlando, and 2015’s San Bernardino shooting, which killed 14.

While official counts vary due to different definitions about what constitutes a mass shooting, most are unequivocally high and vast swathes of the American public are tired of the violence and frustrated by the lack of legislative reform.

The National Rifle Association, which continually lobbies against changes to current gun control practices, is often seen as the major roadblock and powerhouse to which most Republican politicians are beholden.

An absence of clear and constructive debate regarding gun control is as much of an issue.

It is often stifled by GOP politicians and pro-gun advocates who warn against talking about gun reform in the wake of mass shootings, claiming anyone who does so unduly politicises tragedy.

Following the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last October, conservative pundit David Wohl criticised Hillary Clinton, who had called for more gun control, on Twitter.

“This disgraceful woman is already politicizing the #LasVegas tragedy. Another reminder of how unfit she would have been as [President]” he wrote.

But some have latched onto what they see as an inherent hypocrisy, particularly following last Tuesday’s Manhattan terror attack.

Soon after a 29-year-old Uzbek man mowed down and killed eight people with a truck, President Trump called for an intensification of already extreme immigration vetting procedures and an end to the US’ diversity visa program.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo points out in a recent tweet, the incident also saw the implementation of practical ways to reduce the risk in the future.

“After a terror attack in Manhattan we secured the bikeway with barriers,” he wrote.

“After today’s shooting, we need more than thoughts and prayers.”

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