Prayers are not enough

We only need common sense to fix the gun problem

Parkland, Florida, became yet another infamous name on Feb. 14, when, at 2:19 p.m., a former student entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a loaded AR-15 rifle and a black duffel bag of extra magazines.

The location, weapons and the number of fatalities change, but each time the response is the same: banners across the television and live footage of students exiting the school with their hands over their heads as armed police officers enter the school.

Later in the day it is revealed how many innocent lives’ were lost. We hear about the shooter, we learn what type of weapons he used, and we are urged not to politicize the tragedy. Finally, as more people are made aware of the tragedy, we hear the usual refrain: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”

This type of event, as then-President Barack Obama pointed out following a shooting on an Oregon college campus in 2015, which claimed the lives of 10 people, has become routine. Our response has become routine. Expressing our “thoughts and prayers” on social media is part of that. Politicians do it, schools do it and everyday people do it.

I have a suggestion. Perhaps this time, we can skip the “thoughts and prayers” and actually do something.

As nice a sentiment as it is, we are not honoring the dead and injured. We are merely making ourselves feel better so we can continue as we have until the next time our “thoughts and prayers” are needed.

The issue of gun control is a topic of hot debate at times like these. The gun used by the Florida shooter was purchased legally. On Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump signed a document which rescinded an Obama-era regulation which, according to the Associated Press, would have prevented 75,000 people with mental disorders from purchasing firearms.

I am not here to say the events in Parkland could have been prevented by this, or any other regulation. However, we must ask ourselves how we can claim to be keeping the victims in our “thoughts and prayers,” while rescinding the most basic gun regulations.

What is the downside to preventing mentally ill people from purchasing firearms? Should we not be trying to prevent them, at the very least, from attempting to harm themselves? Sixty percent of gun deaths in the U.S., according to NPR, are suicides. If nothing else, can we not come together on the idea that making sure people can not kill themselves is a good thing?

In order to obtain a driver’s license in New York, I was required to take a written test and only drive with a licensed driver over the age of 21. I then had to take a six-hour pre-licensing course and take a road test, where I had to demonstrate my ability to safely operate the vehicle.

To remain in good standing I always need proof of insurance and a yearly safety inspection. Too many moving violations will result in a suspension which will show if authorities check my license plate or vehicle identification number.

Yet, when I went into a Dick’s Sporting Goods store to purchase a rifle for target shooting, I merely had to undergo a background check to ensure I had not committed any crimes. I walked out with the rifle and a brick of 500 rounds of ammunition. It cost less than $400.

There were no questions about what experience I had with firearms, if I knew how to properly store it, or if I knew of the laws governing firearms ownership. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes, yet conservative politicians from New York complain constantly about how tough the state’s gun laws are.

The solution is not just gun control. We need a better mental healthcare system as well, but why is it so difficult to obtain the most basic of gun regulations? Why is it easier to buy a gun than get a driver’s license? Why does anyone need a semi-automatic rifle that holds 50 or 100 rounds of ammunition? Why can we not apply common sense to this problem?

We do not have to get rid of the guns, we just have to regulate them like we do cars. There should be required classes and certifications in order to get a gun license. These licenses should have to be renewed. There should be strict and reasonable limits on the sizes of magazines and every gun and rifle should have to be registered like a car.

If we truly want to honor the victims of school shootings — most of whom are children — it is time we take action. It is time we do more than simply offer empty words like “thoughts and prayers.” As a country, we need to look at the images on the screen, put aside our political rhetoric and acknowledge that being more selective about who can buy a gun is not an assault on our freedom but the exercise of common sense.