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Why ‘thoughts and prayers’ after the Las Vegas shooting became fighting words

Keep your “thoughts and prayers” to yourself.

It’s a growing sentiment online as the now-familiar well wishes flood in following a deadly mass shooting Sunday at a Las Vegas concert. A long-simmering backlash against the phrase condemns it as a useless – or worse – platitude intended to mute calls for action on stronger gun laws.

A man shooting at a Jason Aldean concert from a 32nd-story room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino killed at least 58 people and wounded at least 515 late Sunday night in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, killed himself as police stormed his hotel room. Authorities said he had at least 10 rifles in the hotel room.

President Donald Trump and others quickly took to Twitter to offer their best wishes to the victims.

In a series of tweets, Vice President Mike Pence said, “To victims, families & loved ones affected by this senseless violence in Las Vegas, Karen & I are praying for you & offering our love. The hearts & prayers of the American people are with you. You have our condolences and sympathies. To the courageous first responders, thank you for your acts of bravery.”

And Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval tweeted, “A tragic & heinous act of violence has shaken the #Nevada family. Our prayers are w/ the victims & all affected by this act of cowardice.”

Others added their own condolences.

But those words – particularly “thoughts and prayers” – were greeted with rage by some online.

Many decried the phrase as a political dodge to avoid serious discussion of stronger gun laws.

“The time for #ThoughtsAndPrayers ended with #Newtown. If we don't discuss #GunControl then we condone the violence. #LasVegasShooting,” wrote @AGirlHasNoPOTUS on Twitter.

“Last time I checked, the purpose of thought and prayer was to lead you to valuable action. #thoughtsandprayers alone were never enough,” added Melissa Anelli, also on Twitter.

And Erin Bendas wrote on Twitter, “Oh. Good. The #thoughtsandprayers have started. That should fix the problem. #GunControlNow.”

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., seemed to endorse some of those sentiments after first offering her own good wishes to the victims.

Hillary Clinton also posted her condolences, and a call for action, to Twitter.

“Las Vegas, we are grieving with you—the victims, those who lost loved ones, the responders, & all affected by this cold-blooded massacre,” she wrote in a series of tweets. “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get. Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”

The #thoughtsandprayers hashtag, used by those on both sides of the debate, was trending Monday on Twitter, along with #guncontrol, #thenra, #sandyhook and #pulse.