Twitter Calls Out "Thoughts And Prayers" Response to Mass Shootings

December 2nd 2015

A common refrain often repeated in the wake of violent acts is drawing criticism following a mass shooting at a San Bernardino center for developmentally disabled people that left at least 14 dead and 17 injured, on Wednesday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims," the saying—or some permutation of that sentiment—goes.

But on Twitter, the response was criticized as a distraction and an inadequate solution to a deeper, more policy-centric problem: gun violence.

Related: Here's the comparison of gun deaths to deaths from Islamic terrorists

Others were slightly less delicate:

"Thoughts and prayers" tweets from multiple 2016 presidential candidates and countless other observers rolled in as details of the incident unfolded. Candidates Dr. Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, all sent out similar faith-tinged messages. Other candidates, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted exasperated calls to end to gun violence. Donald Trump said "God bless."

Related: This dad got an alarming text from his daughter inside the San Bernardino shooting

Prayer, as some pointed out, is indeed a meaningful recourse for believers. Still, others saw a familiar pattern of offering up spiritual condolences while remaining silent on legislative action.

On Tuesday, President Obama said he hoped a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado last week would finally spur lawmakers into taking decisive action to curb gun violence.

"I say this every time we've got one of these mass shootings, this just doesn't happen in other countries," he said.

"We are rightly determined to prevent terrorist attacks wherever they occur, whether in the U.S. or with friends or allies like France," Obama continued. "... And yet in the United States we have the power to do more to prevent what is a regular process of gun homicides that is unequaled."

Related: Presidential candidates weigh in on the mass shooting in San Bernardino

The president said he was weighing taking executive action on gun reform legislation, an option he announced following the mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon in October. Following that shooting, Obama highlighted the dire need to address the nation's gun laws, saying thoughts and prayers fell short in regard to tangible change.

"[A]s I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these shootings: our thoughts are prayers are not enough. It's not enough," Obama said. "It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted somewhere else in America."

"This is something we should politicize," he added.

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