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Thoughts and prayers will not fix what’s being ignored

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

On March 27, 2023, Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, became the latest American school devastated by a mass shooting.

After it was reported that six people, including three nine-year-olds, had passed away, Americans began the familiar cycle of offering condolences and “thoughts and prayers.”

Offering thoughts and prayers is probably the most used saying after these kinds of tragedies. While it is well-intended, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t the solution to fixing the biggest problem that plagues the United States; gun control.

These cries for help and action are drowned out by those who do not want to address that gun control is a real issue and just offer thoughts and prayers as a means to just acknowledge what has happened. 

This backlash has opened up a discussion about when this saying should be used because some people mean well.

In a sense, thoughts and prayers are a smokescreen for politicians. Thoughts and prayers are offered to show that they have addressed the tragedy and do not work to fix these issues. It’s like a drill — how could a politician offer condolences when actively voting against legislation that would reduce gun violence?

This makes the saying extremely disingenuous and meaningless as nothing has changed, and who knows if it will anytime soon. The only thoughts that truly matter are those committed to creating real action, such as bans on assault weapons, stricter screenings of purchasing guns and fighting firearm smuggling.

Barry Black, the chaplain of the United States Senate, urged politicians on the Senate floor for action to be taken:

“When babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers,” said Black, adding, “Lord, deliver our senators from the paralysis of analysis that waits for the miraculous. Use them to battle the demonic forces that seek to engulf us.” 

After the mass shooting at Michigan State University, Michigan State Representative Ranjeev Puri released a statement that began with a simple yet telling remark: “F*ck your thoughts and prayers.” He emphasized that work must be done to ensure that no student has to worry about these kinds of threats in the future.

“Thoughts and prayers without action and change are meaningless. Our office will continue to work tirelessly to pass common sense gun reform immediately.  We will not stop until our students can attend school without fear, our communities can attend places of worship in peace, and our society is safe from senseless gun violence.” 

This saying has now become a sarcastic joke online, as the repetition of mass shootings only leads to the recurrence of offering “thoughts and prayers” since no one is offering anything else.

There have been no major gun reform laws since the Sandy Hook mass shooting, where a plan was announced in 2013 for reducing gun violence that included closing loopholes in background checks and banning assault weapons/high-capacity magazines.

From the looks of it, it appears that American politicians aren’t in any rush to propose changes or end gun violence. 

Emma Green, a staff writer at The New Yorker, acknowledges in the article “Prayer Shaming After a Mass Shooting in San Bernardino” that “any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing beliefs” and that people use prayer to cope with the heaviness and evil that surrounds these tragedies.

Green labels this as an “attack of prayer” — some people may not immediately focus on policy change but need time to digest what has happened, or victims and their families may prefer support through prayer before focusing on gun control.

The real criticism of this saying doesn’t have to do with thoughts and prayers themselves, but its new meaning. These objections have nothing to do with religion or condolences at all but the new understanding that “thoughts and prayers” are the bare minimum of action. This saying gives the impression that thoughts and prayers are the only solutions to gun violence; this is all we have to offer, so therefore, we should move on with our lives.

But when 9,870 people, including 338 teens and 60 children, died from gun violence in 2023 in the United States, thoughts and prayers will never be enough. 

And the worst part is, it’s only April, and that number will only rise. 

Until the day comes when American politicians wake up and realize that innocent children are dying because of their lackadaisical responses, we will have to watch more parents bury their children, more families fall apart, more cities mourn, and more schools become decorated with pictures, flowers and stuffed animals. 

Until that day — thoughts and prayers. 

Adriana Fallico

Toronto MU '25

Adriana Fallico is a third-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She enjoys playing with dogs, watching the Toronto Maple Leafs and following politics. Her love of journalism stems from wanting to shed light on stories that require people's attention.