Another mass shooting. More bloodshed. More death. More agony.
And, of course, more thoughts and prayers.
Tragedy and suffering have become a national epidemic. During the past month, America has endured three terrible storms which created mass destruction and many deaths.
But this tragedy was something very different. The killings which took place at a country-music concert in Las Vegas were concocted and carried out by a human being. The disaster wasn’t a natural act. It was man-made. Hence, the tragedy was preventable.
The current debate about man-made climate change notwithstanding, there’s not much we can do to stop forces of nature. Storms happen. But we can and we must do everything we can to prevent massacres initiated by one human being upon others. We must try and stop it. A civil society, particularly America which is such a statistical outlier when it comes to gun violence, not only faces a decision to act now, it has an obligation to do so. This is assuming that we really do value human life, which is very much an open question. Question: Do we really possess the moral and political courage to stand up to powerful forces who are de facto co-conspirators in this pandemic of mass death?
I’m not so sure.
Instead, and in place of action, there are relentless empty words. Thoughts and prayers are nothing more than a sweet-sounding Hallmark card, only they’re cheaper and not nearly as sentimental. At least sending a Hallmark card to someone suffering inconsolable pain is a tangible act. By contrast, thoughts and prayers ring hollow. Thoughts and prayers are a cowardly abdication of greater responsibility if not linked to something more meaningful. It’s like offering to help your pal move out of his apartment but secretly hoping he’s already hired a moving company.
If prayers really worked, some nutjob wouldn’t have hammered out the windows on the 32nd floor of a luxury hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and then starting shooting upon a crowd in the first place. If prayers were effective, no benevolent celestial divinity overseeing the vast universe would have remained asleep at the wheel, emotionally isolated and criminally idle for ten full minutes, all while bullets rained down onto a defenseless cluster of terrified innocents. Expressing “thoughts and prayers” to some imaginary do-nothing sky wizard in the aftermath of such tragedy isn’t just pointless. It’s offensive.
Thoughts and prayers are offensive because they detract us, some by intention, from the very relevant discussion and debate we should all be having, instead. Thoughts and prayers are a smokescreen. Yes, perhaps there is a time for thoughts and prayers — later. At funerals. Do the prayers there. There will be at least 59 funerals happening in the next week or so. So, pray there. Pray at remembrances intended to give comfort to relatives and survivors. Pray there, if you want — all you want. But the terrible aftermath of preventable tragedies aren’t assuaged by empty words tweeted and posted on public forums, even if well-intended. Evil is eradicated, or at least diminished, by acts of courage and specific action.
Gun-fellating ostriches will protest “politicising the tragedy,” an all-too-convenient reflex I’ve already read dozens of times this morning posted all over social media. But if this — the deadliest mass shooting in American history — doesn’t motivate us to do something now, then what will? A hundred deaths? A thousand? Twenty more mass shootings? What if your relative or friend was caught in the crossfire of some wacko blasting a high-powered assault weapon armed with thousands of rounds of ammunition? Pray tell, — what will it take?
Quoting Sarah Q. Queen from Facebook, who said it best:
“Saying not to politicize this is the single most political thing you can do. Anyone who has lost family or friends to an assault rifle wants nothing more than to prevent subsequent murders, and the only way to do that is to stop allowing access. Now is the second best time, the best time being quite a few years ago. So stop politicizing and get out of the way of doing what’s best.”
Want to honor the victims of this tragedy, or one of the innumerable tragedies which have taken place before? Better yet, want to try and prevent another tragedy which is otherwise sure to come? How about this: Let’s update our gun laws. Let’s start with gun registration. Hell, let’s start with restricting guns getting into the hands of mentally disturbed people. Yeah, that would be a good place to start. But we can’t even agree on something this simple. The last time federal legislation was proposed to restrict gun purchases to mentally ill people, the National Rifle Association and its faithful foot soldiers stepped in and killed the bill. What kind of sick perverted society allows this? What sicko wants to allow someone with mental problems to, gulp!, buy guns?
Apparently, there are about 4 million sickos. That’s the number of active NRA members.
Note that I don’t propose getting rid of all guns, even though that’s pretty much what the rest of the civilized world has done where mass shootings simply do not happen. People can keep a gun in the house for self-protection or perhaps even carry a weapon. It’s a very valid point that people should have the right to protect themselves, and that right extends to legally buying a gun.
But if we’re going to sell guns to tens of millions of people from all walks of life, shouldn’t there be some minimal level of scrutiny as to who buys them? Should anyone out there be legally able to buy a dozen potentially deadly high-powered assault rifles plus thousands of rounds of ammunition? For what purpose? Shouldn’t this be a red flag? Sure, many private gun collectors who are good people and there are valid reasons for some citizens to own many guns. Indeed, we can live in a reasonably peaceful society where we have both — tougher gun laws along with maintaining the right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment.
We require licenses and insurance for people to drive cars, and there are plenty of good reasons for this. No sane person would argue against requiring drivers to show competency before getting behind the wheel of a car. We also require restaurants to obtain licenses and adhere to safety inspections. Again, no sane person would argue against requiring food servers to demonstrate clean and safe practices. Our government even requires many professions — doctors, dentists, insurance salesmen, financial planners, and so forth to be licensed. Even hair stylists must obtain a license before they can cut hair. If we demand the person who does haircuts for a living have a license, shouldn’t we require someone who walks into a gun store and purchases a deadly assault weapon to not only to meet some standard of mental competency but also attend a basic training course on gun safety? Bartenders in many states are required to attend courses on alcohol safety. Is anyone really shocked that a nation with much stronger laws restricting who gives haircuts and serves beer than buys a deadly rifle has a rampant problem with gun violence?
I mean, WAKE THE FUCK UP!
Most gun owners are responsible people and good citizens. However, 33,000 gun deaths per year, on average in the United States, plus another 100,000 or so non-fatal accidents is a collective scream for immediate action. That’s not acceptable breakage for any sane society that values human life. That’s re-fighting the Vietnam War every two years. Think of that. Based on the number gun deaths and accidents in America, we are re-fighting the Vietnam War every 24 months. Now as then, we are losing another costly and preventable war.
Anyone who seriously believes last night’s Las Vegas Mandalay Bay tragedy is the final mass shooting is hopelessly naive. No doubt, there will be more shootings in the future. More shootings will take place given that gun laws are unlikely to change anytime soon. And so, we are destined to endure far more preventable deaths, that is, so long as this nation remains foolishly wielded to outdated gun policies that were written when the most deadly weapon in the world was an infantryman’s musket.
Since the Second Amendment was written into the United States Constitution, technology has changed. America has changed. So too, our laws much change also.
And if you still want to pray — then please go ahead and pray. But while you’re remembering the innocent victims, also pray for some sensible gun laws in America. That’s a prayer where I’d willingly bow my head in complete agreement.
Postscript: I would be terribly remiss were I not to add that we need to spend far more and do far more for mental health in this country. But instead, we are cutting services to agencies which deal with mental health problems. We will never know if mass murders like this terribly disturbed individual might have cried for help and not been given the treatment which could have prevented another senseless tragedy.