Thoughts and prayers
Our nation’s heart is broken once again over the lives taken and families destroyed by the 338th mass shooting in the U.S. this year.
This one was the deadliest, but it all feels eerily similar…
Groups of people going about their days in ways we all do — at school, at church, at a nightclub, at the movies or an outdoor concert — gunned down in cold blood for no damn reason.
Thousands of lives wrecked in a matter of minutes by a so-called “lone wolf.”
The shooter may have acted alone, but whether or not he had any ties with official terror groups is irrelevant — this was an act of terrorism…with guns.
Right on cue, officials are once again offering their “thoughts and prayers.”
It’s almost like we’re not thinking hard enough or praying quite right, because despite the ritualistic chanting of what has become the rallying cliche for the do-nothings who refuse to even acknowledge that we have a problem, mass shootings keep happening in America.
Personally, I am a big believer in positive thinking and prayer.
I’m an even bigger believer in backing up thoughts and prayers with action.
It should be clear by now: Thoughts and prayers won’t work until they’re coupled with Americans from all walks of life working together, taking real steps and developing material solutions to prevent the next preventable national tragedy.
But don’t my word for it. The importance of action is a core tenet in just about every major religion.
Here’s what The Bible has to say about prayer without action:
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 Jn 3:17-18)
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said; “Faith and Good Action are partners. One is considered incomplete without the other.”
In a well-known Talmudic discussion, rabbis concluded that “study is great, for it leads to action.”
And “Buddhism declares that happiness and unhappiness are alike results of actions; that prosperity and adversity are also results of individual actions, words and deeds.”
Whether you’re a person of any faith or every faith or no particular faith, the numbers don’t lie.
Our inaction has put the United States in a league of it’s own.
There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012. On average, there is more than one mass shooting per day, every day in the United States.
We are the outlier in the developed world.
As we mourn the loss of more mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, we have to be willing to come to terms with the fact that we have created a uniquely American problem.
And we must be brave enough to fix it now. We can’t wait for our collective apathy to set in once again.
And we can’t keep lying to ourselves.
It’s maddening to hear the same tired tropes about repeated ad nauseum.
“The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
“More guns make us safer.”
“Gun-free zones put people in harm’s way.”
“Having gun control laws in place wouldn’t curb mass shootings because criminals will get their hands on illegal weapons anyway. So we may as well just not do anything.”
If there were any evidence to support any of the above debunked myths, The United States would be doing incredibly well. We have about one gun for every man, woman and child in the country. Americans only make up about 4.4 percent of the world’s population but have nearly half of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
And it’s a fact: places with more guns have more gun deaths.
If it were true that more guns are really making us safer, we could save our thoughts and prayers for something besides senseless, preventable murder.
Policy, not politics.
All of the moments of silence in Congress won’t bring people back to life or prevent more killing. So kudos to Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) for not participating in a moment of silence led by politicians who accept millions of dollars in campaign cash from the merchants of death known as the NRA. Moulton offered up a different kind of “thought and prayer:”
“Thinking of everyone in #LasVegas, and praying Congress will have the courage to do more than stand in silence to commemorate them,” Moulton said.
Real change on gun policy will not originate with our politicians. We the people must demand it.
The inaction of our elected officials and ourselves is what has led us to this point.
There are dozens of horrible American gun policies that have nothing to do with hunting or “protecting one’s home and family.” We must change these policies.
The NRA, with all of its money, has been successful in politicizing the gun debate. But there should be no debate, political or otherwise. The best pushback against the NRA is to change the conversation entirely, from politics to policy.
It’s the politics — GOP vs. Democrats, red vs. blue — that have clouded the policy issues that weren’t considered issues just a few decades ago. Things like climate science and the murder of innocent people should transcend party lines.
We owe it to the victims and their families to demand sweeping change.
But with so much money flowing from the gun lobby to the people writing the laws, we’re not going to change all of these policies overnight, so let’s start with solutions to common sense problems — solutions that actually have bipartisan support.
Let’s do these three things:
- Conduct background checks for gun purchases and close the gun show loophole. Wouldn’t so-called “responsible gun owners” want gun sales to be transparent and above-board?
- Ban assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines. Let’s not make it easy for would-be mass murderers. No halfway skilled shooter needs 60 rounds to hit a deer or defend their home.
- Create a federal database to track gun sales and stop illegal gun sales. Can we all agree that we don’t want guns to end up in the hands of criminals?
This is not normal.
Despite the frequency of gun-related terror in America, we must not accept senseless murder as a norm of American life. We are the only developed nation dealing with this fatal problem on such a widespread, seemingly uncontrollable scale. But other Western countries — like Australia — have taken action and made real policy changes. And it’s worked.