Thoughts and Prayers Won’t Solve Gun Violence

thoughts and prayers

Cartoon by Kristian Nygard

Mass Shooting in the United States from 1990-February 2018

mass shootings 1

mass shootings 2

mass shootings 3

Source: Mother Jones

Three decades of mass of shootings; over 300,000 homicides; over 600,000 suicides. According to Wikipedia, 1.4 million Americans have been killed using firearms between 1968 and 2011.Wikipedia also states:

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the U.S. had 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed by guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns. In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.

By some estimates, Americans own over 300 million firearms, yet most households and individuals do not own a gun. Surprisingly, at least to me, is the fact that most Americans are reticent about banning guns or enforcing strict firearm laws. This disparity shows how effective the NRA and gun lobby are at getting their message out. Like it or not, the United States is a nation of guns. Add to our personal weapon caches the vast weapons of violence, carnage, and death used by our military, and it is hard not to conclude that we are a violent people who love weapon of mass destruction. The U.S. government searched everywhere for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They, of course, found none. Perhaps the search for such weapons should start here within our borders and homes.

What is needed is comprehensive gun control legislation. (Please read Another Day, Another School MassacreBruce, you are WRONG! Guns don’t kill people, people do! Really? Are you so stupid that you cannot see the insanity of such an argument? Cars don’t kill people, people do!  Yet, we have all sorts of laws and regulations that govern car ownership and use, including testing and licensing requirements. We wisely, in the name of public safety, regulate automobile ownership and use, yet many gun owners demand the right to own any kind of firearm, without restriction. Such thinking is a threat to public health and safety in much the same way as are people driving unlicensed, unregulated automobiles on highways, streets, and country roads.

Month after month, year after year, angry, often mentally ill, people use firearms to slaughter their fellow Americans. Every time such carnage happens, Republican/conservative political leaders offer up “thoughts and prayers” while reminding us that guns are not the problem. If the outrage from the survivors of the latest school shooting is any indication, younger Americans are waking up to the reality that guns ARE the problem. Emperor NRA stands before them and says, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and banning guns won’t stop mass shootings. These angry students wisely reply, BULLSHIT! They can see that the Emperor has no clothes. They see, oh so clearly, that unrestricted gun use and ownership is one part of the problem, along with the lack of mental health care for troubled teens and adults.

These young people are saying, NO MORE THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS! We want immediate and decisive action on gun control. It remains to be seen whether their outrage can be turned into a movement, one that perhaps mimics the student anti-war protest movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, protesting students helped to bring an end to the Vietnam War — a decade of immoral American violence and bloodshed in Southeast Asia. I hope that today’s protesting students can put such pressure on the U.S. government that it will force our political leaders, after hundreds of thousands of firearm deaths, to finally enact strict, comprehensive gun control laws.


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  1. Dell

    The tide of public opinion may be turning, and rightly so. However, there are some niggly issues that liberals need to address if they want landslide opinion support for gun control. One of those issues is: Why do so many mass shootings tend to happen at “gun free zones” like schools and music concerts? I’m trying to remember the last mass shooting at a gun show. And why Democratic liberal districts (like Chicago) seem to have the highest gun violence.

    Another tangentially philosophical question is whether it is really preferable to live with crazy people in a ‘padded cell’ society with all sharp objects removed (including pressure cookers, moving vehicles, and chemical or biologic substances) or maybe it might be preferable to just limit the number of people with crazy ideologies or mental illness roaming among us freely?

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Attempts to be cute (gun show line) won’t play well here. I’m in no mood for it. The causes of school shootings are many — easy access to guns and availability of military style weapons and clips, to name two. We should work to eliminate all the causes of school shootings we can. Reduce the causes, and we reduce the carnage and deaths.

      Chicago is problematic to be sure. The causes are many, one of which is gun traffic from outside of Chicago. A high level of gang violence is another. I am aware of no study that shows political liberalism causes increased gun violence/death.

      I am in no way suggesting we should, as you say, remove all the sharp objects. Life is filled with danger. Any number of things could end our lives or seriously harm us. We should remove the obvious things: pedophiles, drug addicts, drunk drivers, guns, air pollution, water pollution, overuse of farm chemicals, overuse of antibiotics, etc. With human behaviors, offenders, if possible, should be treated/rehabilitated (drug and alcohol addicts). If treatment will not change their behaviors, then they should be incarcerated (thinking of pedophiles here).

      Thank you for commenting.


    2. GeoffT

      One man’s crazy ideology is another man’s sincerely held belief. Personally, I think that all fundamentalist religious belief is crazy (and often not just fundamentalist) but does that mean the majority of evangelicals should be barred from gun ownership?

      Trying to pass the buck of the gun problem to one of mental health is just a lame excuse. Guns are the problem and that is where policy needs to be directed.

  2. Steve

    Yeah of course, the more liberal a city is the worse it is; that’s why San Fran is such a shithole (sarcasm)

  3. Maloyo

    I’m not sure a 19-year-old should be able to buy 7-10 guns in a year without anyone checking or seemingly questioning this. This kid couldn’t legally buy a beer, yet he can arm himself to the teeth against perceived enemies. Why was it so easy for him to get these guns, aside from the fact that he didn’t really need to support himself, etc?

    (For the record, I don’t care if people like to collect guns as a hobby, to target shoot, to hunt, or even the kooks who think they’re effectively arming themselves against the US military, but IMO they shouldn’t be allowed to just walk into a store or a gun show and walk out with an assault weapon at any time as much as they want without some sort of check. I’m aware that a number of potential killers will pass these checks; it does not mean we shouldn’t have them.)

    I do think that we need to guard against what I see as the coming war against the mentally ill. Most mentally ill people don’t turn into mass murderers, nor are they the source of all evil in the world. But maybe we do need to not allow anyone to buy seven guns in a year without attracting any attention.

    As for Chicago, put a lot of poor people who don’t have any hope (whether you blame them or the system/society or a combo) in close proximity to each other, isolated from everything else and this is what you get. In more sparsely populated areas you things like the opiate epidemic. In other words, endemic poverty is as much of a cause as is anything.

  4. Carmen

    I am extremely impressed with those students – they appear to be well-spoken, intelligent and passionate about gun reform. They are certainly far ahead in their ideology than many of the adults in their lives! :). Let’s all hope they are the catalyst for change in the U.S.A.!!

  5. Brian

    When I was a boy growing up in fundamentalism (the 50’s), I used to go out with my neighbor, the son of an alcoholic, and kill things with him. It is called hunting. We used a BB gun, then a pellet gun. We just walked into the forest and murdered everything that moved and was not too big to kill. We did not discuss the whys or not, the stupidity of wasted life, the ignorant achievement of taking life for no seeming reason. Had I been able to access higher power weapons as a boy, I would have done so and used them on bigger targets. I was a good boy, never in trouble, the son of a Baptist minister. My buddy was like me and at that age (but not later when he was incarcerated) he had steered clear of most trouble but needed to harm. WE needed to harm, me because I was given over to serve the almighty under my parents and him because of booze and violence. We both suffered extremes in our childhoods and found a way to act them out. It was some years and many many deaths after that I looked back at myself in horror and disgust… And sick Christianity was no help to me then either. When I had some insight it was crushed by Christian doctrine of the sinful heart. When I needed support and love, I got more crucifixion and guilt.
    The USA is enslaved in ignorance. Some have woken up, this time again, the younger people first.
    First do no harm. Second, let the children lead you Donald. The harm done is immense and long-reaching but if we begin to own our own harm and not thug-it onto others, then we are beginning along the path to health. If all the children lie down and say, NO, what hope has the stupid NRA with all their shallow talk of freedom? If kids continue to lie down and stop the cycle, then the children have shown us what human heart can accomplish. Or, we could just kick the hell out of the little shits and send them back to scruel to wait for the next harmed progeny of The Bully to lock and load.

  6. Carmen

    I live in Canada, where there are lots of guns and many people hunting game. My father, a soft-spoken Bank Manager who never touched a gun in his life became a completely different person when he drank. He drank every weekend; whiskey, until the bottle was empty. Then he cursed, shouted, pounded his fists and terrorized his children and used our mother as a punching board. She rarely fought back as she learned early that it was best to let him run out of steam and wait for the abusive torrent to end. When I was 13, our grandfather (our father’s father) took his own life with his hunting rifle. My father, the only child, was sent all of his father’s belongings. He was at work the day the things arrived at our house. My mother let them unload the items but when it came to the shotgun she pointed and said, “THAT thing is not coming into my house”. I realized when I got a little older that she knew full well she would have become another statistic if my father had been able to get his hands on that thing.
    I have said, often, when people are defending their right to own a gun that I guess I’d feel differently about the damned things if they weren’t engineered for one purpose and one purpose only – to kill things. 🙁

  7. Rebecca

    Perhaps it would be good to look at countries such as Switzerland where the gun laws are liberal, and many people own guns very similar to the US. Yet, mass shootings are extremely rare. The homicide rate per capita is also much lower.

    My understanding is that the Swiss do require gun registration and extensive background checks. Is it time to actually mandate some psychological testing as a prerequisite to owning certain types of semi automatic weapons as an alternative to banning all of them outright. The Swiss also are able to flag and investigate people who may appear to be a potential threat.

    I think offering thoughts and prayers are fine as long as the thoughts and prayers lead to viable and good action. I say to people of faith, let’s offer compassion and comfort, but then give wings and feet to our prayers to save lives. 🙂

    We need to have an honest discussion together, and explore all viable options on the table.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Then why offer thoughts and prayers? Do the good works, period. Thoughts are prayers are the lazy man’s way of doing nothing; a feel-good activity that accomplishes nothing.

      Swiss law is complex and comprehensive , not much different from what I wrote last week. I don’t have a problem with gun ownership as long as there are strict laws governing purchase, ownership, sale, and use.

      What “honest” discussion should we have? What don’t we know about firearms and gun violence? Look at what discussion has gotten us….no meaningful gun control legislation in several decades. As of today, all that’s come out of Congress concerning the latest massacre is suggestions to improve background checks. If that’s the best Congress can do then it’s time to throw their assholes out and elect legislators who will aggressively dismantle the harm done by decades of NRA and gun lobby control.

      Swiss law:

      In order to purchase most weapons, the purchaser must obtain a weapon acquisition permit (art. 8 WG/LArm). Swiss citizens and foreigners with a C permit over the age of 18 who are not psychiatrically disqualified nor identified as posing security problems, and who have a clean criminal record can request such a permit. Foreigners with the following citizenship are explicitly excluded from the right to possess weapons: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Albania.[note 2] The following information must be provided to the cantonal weapon bureau together with the weapon application form:

      valid official identification or passport copy

      residence address

      criminal record copy not older than 3 months

      For each transfer of a weapon or an essential weapon component without weapons acquisition permit (art. 10 WG/LArm), a written contract must be concluded. Each Party shall keep them at least ten years. The contract must include the following information (art. 11 WG/LArm):

      Family name, first name, birth date, residence address and signature of the person who sells the weapon or essential weapon component

      Family name, first name, birth date, residence address and signature of the person who purchases the weapon or an essential weapon component’

      Kind of weapon, manufacturer or producer, label, caliber, weapon number, and date and place of transfer;

      Type and number of official identification of the person who acquires the weapon or the essential weapon component and an indication of the processing of personal data in connection with the contract in accordance with the privacy policy of the Federation or the cantons, if firearms are transmitted.

      This information must be sent within 30 days to the cantonal weapon registration bureau, where the weapon holders are registered (art. 9 WG/LArm).

      1. Rebecca

        I think, Bruce, we’re pretty much on the same page with the gun issue, and I’m able to see your point. Sometimes when people say they are praying, it really can become an excuse for evading the issue or doing nothing. It is good to point this out. Thank you.

        For me, it’s more a way that I can let people know that I’m there with them, offering compassion, and presence. If people are praying for me, well, I personally find encouragement and comfort in that.

        However, for me, prayer is also going to be a prelude to action. Sometimes, if I’m wrestling with a thorny issue, and I’m not sure what I should do, or what position I should take, prayer and meditation is one way that I’m able to calm and focus my thinking. I can wake up the next morning, able to see different solutions and perspectives. It’s also how I become more aware and can connect more deeply to God’s love in my life.

        However, I don’t view this in some miraculous sense that I have the absolute ability to change God’s mind or demand miracles. If I”m going through a difficult time, just knowing God’s love, and sensing that He is present with me through everything can make a tremendous difference.

        But, this is me, and I understand that people are different, and may see this differently. I value your insight and opinions even though we may not always agree. You always have been a catalyst for me to think more deeply about what I believe and why.

  8. Connie

    Bans don’t work – see prohibition. I suggest licenses for differing weapons based on psych evals and proficiency. I would also require insurance in case of accidents, just like we do cars now.

    I would also fund the CDC to gather data to ensure the new policies worked.

    There is so much talk about mental illness. The latest Florida shooter wasn’t mentally ill, he had anger issues as do many young men. Teaching our children how to handle complex emotions before they are dipped in hormones and set on fire might give them a chance to survive to adulthood.


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