Editorial | We need more than thoughts and prayers

Illustration by Gaby Fantone

On Thursday, the U.S. saw the 307th mass shooting in 2018. Twelve people were killed while celebrating, dancing and listening to music on “college night” at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

The bar often drew students from nearby Pepperdine University and the University of California, Riverside. Thousand Oaks is just over an hour’s drive from Chapman, and the victims’ ages ranged from 18 to 54 – but most were the age of many college students.

Victim Alaina Housley, 18, had just begun her first semester at Pepperdine University. Telemachus Orfanos, 27, survived the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas, but was shot and killed in California a little more than a year later, according to his mother.

We live in a country where some Americans have lived through one massacre only to witness another. This week’s attack came just 14 days after 11 people were killed as they worshipped in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. People have been shot at places of worship, Christmas parties, community colleges, movie theaters, music venues, nightclubs and schools. It’s beginning to feel like nowhere is safe.

With each mass shooting that happens, another group of people have to contend with the loss of community members whose deaths could have easily been prevented – and no, not by a good guy with a gun. There was a good guy with a gun in the Thousand Oaks shooting: His name was Sgt. Ron Helus, and he was the first responder to enter the bar after police were called to the scene. He died a hero, trying to protect others, with his last moments marked by pain and a spray of gunfire. But he could not prevent 11 other people from being killed.

“The only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’… or ‘keep you in my thoughts’… every time… and wonder why these keep happening,” a man believed to have been the Thousand Oaks shooter wrote on Facebook around the time of the shooting, according to CNN.

The time for thoughts and prayers has long been over. It is time for meaningful change and powerful federal gun control. It is time for our political leaders to cooperate with one another and show that they are willing to work across the aisle – preventing unnecessary death should not be a partisan issue.

California’s gun control laws are among the strongest in the nation. Thirty years ago, the state became the first to ban assault rifles after a shooting at a Stockton elementary school. In 2014, California also passed extreme risk protection orders, a measure that allows law enforcement or family members to temporarily stop a person from purchasing firearms and ammunition by court order.

But clearly, this isn’t enough. And when politicians stave off legislation by accusing those who are advocating for stronger restrictions, more laws and better oversight surrounding gun ownership of “politicizing” a tragedy, we are simply left waiting anxiously for the next tragedy to strike.

Now is the time for gun control. It was also the time for gun control last week, and the week before, and the week before that. It is no longer acceptable to champion the constitutional right of owning a firearm over the human right to life. It’s time for gun control, and it’s time for change.