Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed the NRA after the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques that left at least 49 people dead and 20 injured, asking what good was offering thoughts and prayers when "they don't even keep the pews safe?"
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attacks at the mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers could now "only be described as a terrorist attack."
Four people, three men and one woman, were taken into custody in connection with the attack, with at least one male suspect confirmed to be an Australian-born citizen. Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the suspect was an "extremist right-wing violent terrorist."
Disturbing footage made by one of the suspects showed him live-streaming the attack as he repeatedly shot his victims. Police urged people not to share the "extremely distressing" footage.
In the wake of the attack, the New York congresswoman criticized the pro-gun NRA lobbyist group for its use of the phrase "thoughts and prayers"—which politicians and organizations often offer after mass shootings.
Tweeting a link to Ardern's news conference giving an update to the shooting, Ocasio-Cortez wrote: "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? This is a time of great vulnerability for our communities. We must come together, fight for each other, & stand up for neighbors. Isolation, dehumanizing stereotypes, hysterical conspiracy theories, & hatred ultimately lead to the anarchy of violence. We cannot stand for it," said Ocasio-Cortez.
In a follow-up tweet, Ocasio-Cortez confirmed that the "thoughts and prayers" line was a reference to the NRA's phrase she said is used to "deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies. Not directed to PM Ardern, who I greatly admire."
Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the NRA, responded to the criticism from Ocasio-Cortez. She replied "good grief" to a tweet that accused Ocasio-Cortez of being hypocritical for "attacking those who pray" after previously putting ash on her forehead for Ash Wednesday.
The NRA was heavily criticized a year ago after tweeting an image an of AR-15 assault rifle emblazoned with the text, "I'll control my own guns, thank you," during a walkout by tens of thousands of U.S. students protesting for stricter gun laws after the Parkland mass shooting.
In a statement addressing the mosque shootings, Ardern said she and all New Zealanders issue the "strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this."
"We represent diversity and compassion, a home for those who share our values, a refuge for those who need it. And those values will not and can not be shaken by this attack. We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities and 160 languages. You may have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you."