Following what is believed to be a murder-suicide at an elementary school in San Bernardino, California, local authorities confirmed on Monday afternoon that two adults were left dead and several victims were reportedly being treated at nearby hospital. It's jarring news to read and like every other tragedy, there is a knee-jerk desire to share thoughts and prayers for those affected on social media, or to attend candlelit vigils with others who are heartbroken and horrified. But, this latest tragedy proves why praying for San Bernardino is not enough and why proactive measures need to be taken.
Since 2013, there have been more than 200 school shootings in the United States — and today's in a classroom at North Park Elementary School marks the 220th and the 12th in 2017 alone, a spokeswoman from Everytown for Gun Safety told Romper on Monday. That's two more deaths and two other people, possibly students, who were wounded at yet another shooting on school grounds.
"Today, yet another elementary school community was shaken by gun violence," Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts told Romper in an email statement. "Our thoughts are with the students, faculty and families affected by the shooting. Educators should not have to fear being shot at work. Parents should not have to fear their children not returning home from school." She added,
There have been more than 200 school shootings in less than five years, and lockdown drills have become part of standard safety practice. There are solutions out there — too often we rely on thoughts and prayers to do the work our politicians refuse to do. Our volunteers and gun violence survivors will not rest until our leaders put our children's safety first and we change the culture of gun violence in this country.
Those numbers are startling, but what's even more troubling are the countless lives that have been changed forever by these senseless acts of violence. So while offering prayers and condolences may help ease the pain in the immediate aftermath, as Watts stated, these gestures are not going to stop what could be a preventable murder in the future.
President Barack Obama noted this same trend back in 2015 after a gunman opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, killing 10 people and injuring seven others, according to CNN.
"As I said just a few months ago and I said a few months before and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough," Obama said in October 2015 of the shooting, according to NBC News. "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 some place else in America next week or a couple months from now."
So, how do we prevent another school shooting from happening again? There are a lot of ideas out there — stricter gun laws and regulations, arming school teachers and security, or improving mental health care in the United States — but Americans can't seem to agree on one solution, especially when so many of those "solutions" may not necessarily be solutions at all.
It's not immediately clear what could've stopped Monday's shooter from killing a woman inside the elementary school classroom (the woman was a teacher), and then turning the gun on himself, but it's a safe assumption that there will be a lot of questions about what happened. Did he obtain his firearm legally with all of the required documents and permits? Were there any signs that could've predicted this type of behavior? There are a lot of unknowns.
So until the law finds a way to stop mass shootings and gun violence in schools, there needs to be a national dialogue on comprehensive prevention strategies and how to keep young students and their educators safe in the process, other than a simple outpouring of "thoughts and prayers" from legislators across the country. It will take more than a press release and timely tweet on how heartbreaking and horrifying the tragic events are.
School shootings are every parent's worst nightmare and without better and more effective preventative measures in place, this type of fear will continue to permeate through our society.