Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2017

Opinion: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ are not enough

October 5, 2017


There is, by now, a grim routine to all of this.

That’s how frequently it happens, how unremarkable it has become in America for some lunatic with a gun to shoot up a public place: we have evolved a script for it. Take Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas — at least 59 people dead, over 525 wounded — as an example.

Like a favorite movie, you can recite the lines by rote. Politicians pronounce themselves “shocked and saddened.” The left demands new gun safety measures, the right says “now is not the time” for that debate. Landmarks all over the world dim their lights. People say “we are all” Las Vegas — or Newtown or Aurora or Orlando — today. And everybody offers “thoughts and prayers” for the victims.

On social media, at least, that last draws particular scorn from the more secular among us for whom it is by definition an impotent gesture. But one need not be atheist or agnostic to feel frustration with those whose whole answer to this crisis is to invoke God and look away.

“Thoughts and prayers” do not diminish the need for more concrete steps. Indeed it might be argued that the one requires the other. James, the brother of Jesus, certainly thought so.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,” he wrote, “if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

There is, then, something both morally and spiritually bankrupt in the idea that sending “thoughts and prayers” finishes our obligation to confront this scourge. Send all the thoughts and prayers you can. But as you’re thinking and praying, ask yourself: how is it that we live in a representative democracy where, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 54 percent of us favor a ban on assault-style weapons, 54 percent support a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, 66 percent endorse the idea of a federal database to track gun sales, 74 percent want people on federal no-fly or watch lists barred from purchasing guns, 81 percent think people with mental illness should not be allowed to buy guns and 83 percent advocate background checks for private and gun-show sales and yet, the representatives we democratically elect ignore us year after year?

It’s a rhetorical question, of course. You already know the answer: We may elect them, after all, but we don’t buy them. The NRA does that.

Here, however, is another question and it isn’t rhetorical at all: Why do we as an electorate let them get away with this? Why do they pay no price at the ballot box? Why do we do nothing?

Because we do nothing, Sandy Casey, Charleston Hartfield and Sonny Melton are dead now. Because we content ourselves with “thoughts and prayers,” Angela Gomez, Jenny Parks and Neysa Tonks are, too. Because so many of us willingly swallow the lie that the Second Amendment cannot co-exist with reasonable regulation, the next batch of dead is only a matter of time.

“This is the price of freedom,” Bill O’Reilly wrote on his blog. And seriously, does this look like freedom to you?

Freedom is not terror. And free people are not supposed to be helpless to impose change. That’s the point of democracy: The government answers to its voters. But this one apparently does not. So yes, by all means, send the victims of this latest mass murder your thoughts and prayers.

But your deeds and actions might help, too.

— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.


Larry Sturm 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Very good article about the NRA buying our politicians. If congress can't do anything about the gun laws put it on the national ballot and let the people deside.

Justin Hoffman 3 months, 2 weeks ago

That's not how our government works Larry. You'll have a chance next election cycle to vote for politicians that fit your ideology.

Brock Masters 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Larry’s post illustrates why it is difficult to have a meaningful discussion on gun violence. Larry, like so many others do not understand our Constitution, our system of government and how a right differs from a privilege.

The right to bear arms is affirmed by the second amendment and as such, it cannot be put on the “national ballot” and further their is no such thing as the national ballot that allows us to vote on these types of issues. The proper recourse is either to pass Constitutional laws regulating gun ownership or repeal the second amendment.

The other problem is, like abortion, the issue isn’t really saving lives, but scoring a political victory against the political opponent.

Neither side is willing to accept what may appear to a reasonable change because they believe it emboldens and empowers the other side to move closer to their end goal of a total ban.

It isn’t really about saving lives because there are numerous ways we could regulate privileges and save thousands of lives each year, but don’t because that would inconvenience us. For example speeding in cars kills. The technology is there to limit the speed of cars and with GPS, it could be tied to the actual speed limit. A governor on a car wouldn’t add much to the cost of the car but would people accept it? Doubt it.

There are ways to reduce gun deaths that do not require infringing upon our rights. Suicides account for the majority of gun deaths so let’s shift the discussion to ensuring mental health professionals are required to report patients with a mental illness such as depression which is the leading cause of suicide to the national background database and prevention them from owning or possessing guns.

The talking point du jour is banning bump stocks. Great, do it and you won’t change the number of gun deaths annually. It is a political tool, not a meaningful change.

Want change stop with the name calling, the political rhetoric and offer reasonable solutions that will,provide tangible results.

Brock Masters 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Here is a novel solution, although not Constitutional.

Ban private security companies and individuals from possessing guns while protecting individuals.

How many celebrities or former politicians do you think would support it? I can hear the screams of protest now only overshadowed by the sound of hypocrisy.

Bob Summers 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Exactly. Prayers are not enough. If NRA could get as much money as Planned Parenthood does from the government, kinetic efforts to ban people under the influence of DRD4 polymorphism from getting anywhere near guns would be greatly enhanced.

Bob Reinsch 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Pointless to even talk about it. Now is not the time. Thoughts and prayers. Moment of silence. Flags at half-staff. Rinse, lather, repeat. Buy Kevlar. Just get used to the carnage. We made up our minds after Sandy Hook that our gun laws and freedom are more important the lives of children and teachers. All that's filling the air now is noise generated by flapping gums. Move on. It's just a matter of time before it happens again and again.

Bob Smith 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The NRA isn't even in the top 50 organizations that donate to politicians. Das Lennypitts is probably aware of that and was hoping that you wouldn't find out.

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