• Press Release

“Thoughts and Prayers.” Four Years Since the 2018 March For Our Lives, 1,100 Body Bags on the National Mall Show the Cost of Federal Inaction on Gun Violence

Despite one of the largest youth protest movements in history, Congress’ failure to pass federal gun safety legislation has allowed the gun violence epidemic to soar. 170,000 people have died from guns since the Parkland tragedy. Young people won’t back down until DC takes action. 

Washington, D.C. — Thursday, March 24 will mark the four-year anniversary of the March For Our Lives, which brought millions of people across the country and around the world to demand action on the deadly gun violence epidemic. In the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young people marched to call out the utter failure of adults to protect us from gun violence and demand that common-sense gun safety legislation is passed.

Since then, adults have failed to offer much more than thoughts and prayers. Despite securing a gun-safety majority in both chambers of Congress and a pro-gun violence prevention President, not a single piece of meaningful legislation has been passed to protect our constitutional right not to be shot. 170,000 people have died. Young people are once again returning to D.C. to share a clear and simple message to Congress and the President: you are responsible for these deaths.

To draw attention to the vast chasm between politicians’ thoughts and prayers and the actions they’ve yet to take to keep us safe, March For Our Lives today installed over 1,100 body bags on the National Mall in a stark message to Congress. The body bags, each representing over 150 deaths since February 2018, will spell out the words “thoughts and prayers” in a visceral illustration of the cost of inaction.

In the wake of the historic 2018 march, politicians across the aisle lined up to congratulate young people on their activism, and offer their support to end the scourge of gun violence. Since then, young people have notched significant wins. At the state level, over 150 pieces of gun safety legislation have been passed, including bills that tighten firearm purchasing requirements in Florida. March For Our Lives’ 2018 letter to the New York Attorney General’s office initiated a lawsuit that dealt a crippling blow to the NRA. And in 2018 and 2020, young people turned out to vote in record numbers—animated in part by an existential concern about gun violence—to defeat more NRA-backed politicians than ever before, and to usher in a Congress and President that offered some of the strongest recent support on gun violence prevention.

But despite this groundswell of energy, Congress has turned its back to common-sense gun safety reform, while firearms have become the leading cause of death in American children. There hasn’t been a sustained push from congressional leadership to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a near blank check of immunity unique to the gun industry,  or pass universal background checks, or pass a bill to establish universal background checks for gun purchases—a simple, proven, and nationally popular solution that would meaningfully curb gun violence. The President has yet to use all the tools in his toolbox, or even to use the bully pulpit to forcefully call for congressional action. That has to change today.

Today, all Congress has to do is look out the window from their offices in the US Capitol to see body bags laid on the National Mall, and to understand just what their inaction has accomplished.

March For Our Lives is calling for a reset and for Congress to live up to the promises they made to young people four years ago. We are calling for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to be the leader we need, and pass Universal Background Checks in the Senate. 170,000 people have died since the March For Our Lives. We cannot wait another moment. We must act now. The Senate must act now.

“Those in power have allowed deaths by firearms to become the backdrop of our society. They pretend that it’s normal for us to fear for our lives,” said X Gonzalez, Co-Founder of March For Our Lives. “They pretend there’s nothing they can do to end this crisis when in reality, they have barely tried. The fact remains that 170,000 people have died from guns since we took action in 2018. This epidemic of gun violence is only getting worse. We hope Congress sees these body bags and understands how real this crisis is. Spare your worthless thoughts and prayers. Pass legislation to end gun violence now.”

“We organized. We marched. We voted and turned a gun safety minority in Congress into the majority, alongside a President who promised to do everything in his power to fix gun violence. And still, no federal legislation on guns—not even the most common-sense measures like background checks, which 90% of Americans agree with. Young people did everything right,” said David Hogg, co-founder and board member of March for Our Lives. “The responsibility to fix this epidemic sits squarely with the politicians in Washington. Senator Schumer’s broken promises on gun violence are no better than empty thoughts and prayers.”

“Over the last four years, I’ve seen our movement grow and shift. We’ve risen to the challenges of the pandemic and the drastic increase in gun violence that came with it,” said Gaby Salazar, National Organizing Director at March For Our Lives. “We’ve lobbied, protested, and voted at the federal level and in our communities. But one major victory eludes us: getting real gun safety legislation, more than thoughts and prayers, from Congress. We won’t let leaders in DC forget that they’ve failed us. We will continue to demand that they act to save lives.”

“Even though guns are the number one cause of death for young people in America, my generation is determined to overcome gun violence,” said Trevon Bosley, board member of March For Our Lives. “We continue to believe that we deserve care and safety, even when it is repeatedly denied to us by those in power. My demands today remain the same as four years ago: for Congress and the President to see this senseless loss of life as a crisis and pass the laws we elected them for.”

“Body bags. That’s what thoughts and prayers get us because these empty words do not stop bullets,” said Daud Mumin, board member of March For Our Lives. “This crisis is completely preventable if only politicians in Washington who have the power to make change took their jobs seriously and actually valued our lives. We hope this message is a wake-up call that young people haven’t forgotten—you still owe us the laws you promised to help stop gun violence.”