Update: On Wednesday, Dec. 2, a shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California left 14 people dead and 21 wounded. Hours after the attack, police pursued information that led to a chase of a dark SUV, which was later determined to be a rental car. A shootout between police and the suspects left both suspects dead. They were identified as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who were husband and wife.
According to SBPD Chief Jarrod Burguan, the four guns used in the shooting were purchased legally. The suspects were found to have 1,600 rounds of ammunition with them, and at a home they were renting in Redlands, California, law enforcement officers found 4,500 rounds of ammunition and 12 pipe bombs. No official motive has been confirmed, though a source told The Los Angeles Times that investigators are considering that it might be terrorism or workplace-related.
Earlier: When news broke Wednesday morning that a shooting had taken place in San Bernardino, California, that resulted in at least 14 deaths and 17 injuries, the world and Internet collectively reacted with messages of grief and support. Adding to the horror, the violence occurred at Inland Regional Center, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities.
As mass shootings like this become terrifyingly more frequent in the U.S., so does a now-standard reaction from politicians, celebrities, and everyone in between — a corresponding set of hashtags and tweets calling for prayers and thoughts for victims and their families. But as President Obama said after October's shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community college, which killed 10 people, well-meaning prayers and thoughts are simply not enough. The grief and sadness associated with such horrific events is overwhelming for anyone, and it goes without saying that prayers and thoughts sent toward victims and their families are all positive, supportive acts of goodwill. But for every person who has died and will die from gun violence until gun control laws finally, significantly change, they are not enough.
According to Vox, U.N. data sourced by The Guardian showed that "no other developed country in the world" has even close to the same rate of gun violence as America. In the three years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut which left 26 people dead (including 20 children), there have been 1,042 mass shootings, with shooters killing at least 1,312 people and wounding 3,764 more.
What with the terrorist attacks in Paris only a few weeks ago, it's true that mass violence is not only an American problem. However, it's important to look at the current state of gun violence in the US to get a clear picture of just how necessary concrete action is needed now more than ever — and how tangible change is needed much more than a thoughtful hashtag.
America has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, as well as the highest rate of gun-related deaths among all developed countries. Overwhelming research has proven that gun ownership and firearm-related deaths are directly correlated. All of this leads to a very scary and very real threat for Americans — and one that, thanks to a lack of reform, is not changing. Prayers and thoughts are kind, but they are not laws. They are not change.
With each new mass shooting comes the possibility that we'll grow numb to such unfathomable acts of cruelty — that at some point, it will happen so often that it will become fathomable. We can't let that happen. As someone who has prayed for victims of these events and their families, and will continue to do so, I understand and deeply respect the faith in prayer that many people have. But I also know that same faith calls us to act. To do whatever we can to protect people, strangers or otherwise.
So how can you make a difference? Instead of just using a trending hashtag of support on Twitter, sign gun control petitions. Join a club or group that supports gun control actively. Write to your congressional representative and demand change. Educate yourself about political candidates' stances on gun control reform, and more importantly, vote for the ones whose positions align with the changes you'd like to see. Be vocal. Tweet. Update your status. Tell friends you want to see things change, and help them learn about how they can help, too. And if you want to pray as well? Then that's cool, too.
Images: Mary Raburn/Bustle