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After na horrific attack on Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) made a statement on social media, taking aim at the National Rifle Association and the gesture of “thoughts and prayers.”
“At 1st I thought of saying, ‘Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.’ But I couldn’t say ‘imagine.’ Because of Charleston. Pittsburgh. Sutherland Springs. What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?”
At 1st I thought of saying, “Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.”— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 15, 2019
But I couldn’t say “imagine.”
Because of Charleston.
What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?pic.twitter.com/2mSw0azDN8
Ocasio-Cortez clarified that “‘Thoughts and prayers’ is reference to the NRA’s phrase used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.”
(“Thoughts and prayers” is reference to the NRA’s phrase used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies. Not directed to PM Ardern, who I greatly admire.)— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 15, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez’ comments almost immediately drew backlash on Twitter given that the attack was in another country where the NRA isn’t present.
But this was also an attack unimaginable in a country with strong gun laws, whereas this shooting would be tied for just the second biggest massacre in America, all of which came in the last two years.
You are absolutely disgusting for already mentioning the NRA.— One Freedom Party (@OneFreedomParty) March 15, 2019
so now you want to impose your gun control on other countries?— La Flama Blanca (@I_COOKS_it_UP) March 15, 2019
New Zealand has strict gun control laws. The NRA isn't in New Zealand. How revolting that you've turned this tragedy into a talking point on US politics.— Alex Eckelberry (@alexeck) March 15, 2019
At 1st I thought of saying, “Imagine your first response to a massacre being to mock thoughts & prayers and then taking a jab at your political opponents.”— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) March 15, 2019
But I couldn’t say “imagine.”
Because of these tweets from @AOC. pic.twitter.com/S6wYZyJjl9
There’s no NRA in New Zealand and New Zealand has strict gun control. Your response is to attack those who pray after a tragedy. Hang your head in shame bartender.— bill (@angrycommuter85) March 15, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez is a divisive figure in the U.S.; every tweet seems to be ripe for attack from conservatives. But the Second Amendment is one of the most divisive issues in American politics today. Gun advocates cling fiercely to their firearms; gun control advocates push the government to place more restrictions on them.
In a manifesto attributed to the New Zealand shooter, the division over gun access in the U.S. is specifically mentioned as a conflict worth stoking,
While the so-called manifesto is a rambling, unhinged work, full of cynicism and irony that mocks a horrified public and a media required to pay attention, the writer points back to the political division over gun rights several times.
If the manifesto is to be believed, the shooter took a particular interest in American political division and drops several breadcrumbs—like mentioning his admiration for President Donald Trump and other figures on the right—indicating an intent to inflame that division.
As of this writing, 49 people have died in the attack, and the shooter was apprehended.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.