Betsy DeVos’s response to the San Bernardino school shooting: thoughts and prayers

If only there were something one could do.
If only there were something one could do.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Two adults and an 8-year-old child are dead, and another child is critically injured after a shooting at a San Bernardino, California elementary school classroom on Monday. A gunman shot the teacher and students and then himself, in a “murder suicide,” police said.

Betsy DeVos, the new US secretary of education, offered condolences that may sound somewhat familiar:

My heart and prayers go out to the victims of this horrible act and to all students and members of the North Park Elementary School community. I want to thank the first responders, teachers and school administrators who were there to protect the students in harm’s way. As a mother and grandmother, today’s senseless violence is a tragedy no parent should ever have to face. I ask everyone to join me in keeping all the victims and those impacted in your prayers.

“Thoughts and prayers” has become a shorthand for the response characterized by regret, but an unwillingness to enact meaningful legislative change, that some US politicians have offered after national shootings in recent years. It has often come from those who have taken funding from the National Rifle Association, the US’s powerful gun industry lobby, or who support loosening gun control laws.

DeVos cited the prevalence of grizzly bears as a reason schools might need to allow guns during her Senate confirmation hearing, when asked about president Donald Trump’s campaign promise to put handguns in all schools. Before taking office, her family contributed millions to Republican lawmakers and the party itself, which has successfully pushed back restrictions on guns in the past decade.

Trump so far has made no statement about the shooting.

The US has a higher number of school shootings than dozens of other countries put together, whose combined populations are about 10 times that of the US. The states with the highest rates of gun ownership also have have the highest rates of gun deaths.

The North Park shooting is the 12th so far on a school campus this year, a figure that includes non-fatal shootings.