Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) criticized the National Rifle Association (NRA) after at least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand.
"What good are your thoughts and prayers when they don't keep the pews safe?" wrote the freshman Congresswoman, directly referencing the deadly shootings at a Charleston, South Carolina church, a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Sutherland Springs, Texas church.
Ocasio-Cortez clarified that “thoughts and prayers” is a reference to the NRA phrase “used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.” She added that she is an admirer of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The NRA does not operate in New Zealand, which has some of the toughest gun laws on record, but Ocasio-Cortez's statement took direct aim at the organization and those who have vigorously condemned the attack while failing to address a spate of regular gun violence that happens stateside.
And although Ocasio-Cortez's comments received significant criticism from people accusing her of attempting to score political points, many concurred with her assessment that the phrase "thoughts and prayers" is reductive.
Ocasio-Cortez later called on communities to “come together, fight for each other and stand up for neighbors.”
“Isolation, dehumanizing stereotypes, hysterical conspiracy theories & hatred ultimately lead to the anarchy of violence,” she added. “We cannot stand for it.”
New Zealand officials have charged one man in his late 20s with murder. Police also found two explosive devices attached to a vehicle that they had stopped. The gunman published a 17-minute live video of the shooting as well as 74 pages of what authorities have referred to as a "manifesto" of white nationalist rhetoric in which he referred to immigrants as "invaders."
Two other armed suspects are in custody.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attacks represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
Ardern later took to Twitter to remind citizens that "many of those affected" are members of the nation's migrant communities.
"New Zealand is their home – they are us," she said.
The attack took place during Friday prayer, which Moustafa Farouk, a spokesman for the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said made the violence especially "shocking." He said he never dreamed such an attack would take place in New Zealand.
"It’s one of the most peaceful countries in the world,” he said, adding that “this kind of random act of violence will affect that image.”