Thursday, December 03, 2015

"Thoughts and prayers" as gun safety policy

Working about as well as you would expect.

(Yesterday) saw not one but two mass shootings, on opposite sides of the country. In San Bernardino, California, three gunmen entered a center for persons with disabilities and killed at least fourteen people. In Savannah, Georgia, a single gunman killed a woman and injured three more people in the early hours of this morning.

There was also a shooting death in front of a Houston women's clinic yesterday.

All three Democratic presidential candidates responded to the shooting by calling for something — ANYTHING — by way of action to prevent the next mass shooting. All of the Republican presidential candidates called for prayers, and perhaps some thoughts, for the victims, their families and first responders on the scene.

It didn’t stop there, though. (Think Progress contributing editor) Igor Volsky has found 38 -- and counting -- Republican members of Congress, not counting the ones who are running for president, who tweeted out some version of “thoughts and prayers” immediately following the San Bernardino shooting. He also made a second pass through with said members’ contributions from the NRA.

Go check it out.  As the linked piece's headline so bluntly reveals, the sum of gun safety policy for the Republican Party begins and ends with "thoughts and prayers".  The New York Post also pointed out the hypocrisy of asking and then waiting for the Supreme Being to take action.

As was the case with October’s mass shooting in Oregon, the Republican party line hasn’t even included the traditional hand-waving at the need for improved mental health services — even as there are bills currently stalled in Congress that would improve our country’s mental health services! Instead, the unified message has been that thoughts and prayers are the necessary and sufficient reaction to this shooting tragedy.

You don't have to be a non-believer to understand how powerfully ignorant this is. But as expected, Christians pushed back against being shamed for doing nothing but close their eyes and meditate.

In isolation, nothing. ... (I)f you, personally, want to send good thoughts in the direction of someone who has just experienced a loss, go ahead. It doesn’t hurt anyone, although God’s continued agnosticism on American gun violence has made it pretty clear that it isn’t helping, either. What absolutely is hurting people, however, is the continued implicit insistence of the Thoughts and Prayers Caucus that there simply isn’t anything else we can do about America’s off-the-charts homicide rate.

Because when politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, they don’t do it in a vacuum. These are people charged with making sure that tragedies like these don’t happen again, and ... the same representatives who are driven to prayer by the sheer horror of this tragedy have stopped even pretending to put any effort into curbing gun violence. Hell, they’ve blocked efforts to research the issue.

This being the case, the regular call to prayer we see every time someone takes legally-purchased guns and kills a whole bunch of people with them comes off as nothing more than a dodge. Prayer is being passed off as what we’re supposed to do instead of coming up with any ideas for how to make mass shootings happen less than once per day. Given that the number of prayers being offered by various politicians seems to be directly proportional to the size of the investment the NRA has made in their campaigns, you don’t have to be all that creative to imagine why.

If you're one of those people who votes straight ticket GOP, is afraid that Bill Clinton Barack Obama Hillary Clinton is coming to take away all your guns, you might be part of the problem.  Whether you're sending thoughts and prayers to the latest victims of the most recent mass shooting, or not.

If Republican thoughts and prayers were followed up with anything by way of an actionable solution to this epidemic-level problem, it’d be one thing. But when their conversation starts and ends with an earnest, prayerful tweet, it feels like they’re sticking their fingers in their ears until the news cycle moves on. They bring no actual ideas to the table, just well-wishes. Doing nothing appears to be the line item on the party platform, but “thoughts and prayers” are scribbled into the margins in order to give candidates something to tweet out.

The Atlantic’s Emma Green is dismayed that prayer isn’t being welcomed in the political debate today, writing that “At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.” But today, prayer really is being used to defend a particular right-wing political belief: that the only feasible solution to mass shootings is to get on your knees and ask God to let more than a week pass before the next one. One political party’s pseudo-religious commitment to that belief is indirectly contributing to the deaths of thousands of Americans every year.

If that’s what prayer is being used for, it deserves to be shamed.

Daily mass murders from high-powered weapons are officially this nation's most pressing concern, whether the shooters be Muslim or whether they are not.

I'll ask again: what do we expect our elected leaders to do about this?  I'm asking more specifically beyond thoughts and prayers.


Gadfly said...

As you may have seen me on Twitter, Yahweh ben Yahweh or whomever didn't stop the shootings from happening in the first place, right?

We had a murder-suicide here T-day Friday; same responses from the average red-state Tejas John/Jane Doe. "Prayers for the family."

Gadfly said...

As for that Atlantic piece? What a punch of fucking dreck, even as Green on Twitter retweets former Morning News homophobe columnist Dreher.

Gadfly said...

Add that Ms. Green is a 2012 Georgetown graduate. So, she's got a Catholic oar to row, first.

Second, she shows just how cheap The Atlantic is, to hire a 20something as its managing editor.

Gadfly said...

Oh, and here's my hot take ballistic response to Emma Green: