We Cannot Pray Away The Las Vegas Shooting

"Thoughts and Prayers" has become the laziest, emptiest, most vile and un-actionable response to mass shootings. 

We've been hearing it for too long since Columbine, an event so shocking and horrible in its singularity, we figured that shooting was an outlier with the frequency of the Hale-Bopp comet.

We were obviously wrong because since then there have been 50 attempted mass murders at schools in the U.S.

Today is the 275th day of 2017, and this year has seen 273 mass shootings, a mind-boggling rate of almost one per day. And we're only talking mass shootings here, defined by the Gun Violence Archive as any incident in which four or more [are] shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter.

And now Las Vegas.

58 dead and counting, the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

It's only a matter of time until this shooting is surpassed. Worse, the hundreds of smaller scale shootings that will occur in the interim will weigh lighter on the American consciousness because this is what we're used to.

Which brings me back to thoughts and prayers.

We thought and we prayed last time after Orlando. Fooled you! Orlando wasn't the most recent mass shooting. It was the shooting that occurred Saturday in Memphis. Fooled you again! It was actually the one yesterday in Lawrence, Kansas hours before Vegas.

We thought and we prayed, and we forgot.

Because thoughts and prayers don't do a Goddamn thing.

It's less insulting when the shooter or terrorist organization claims responsibility because they are not bullshitting anyone. And make no mistake, this was an act of terror.

But Vice President Mike Pence, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and everyone else tweeting that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones suggests we are powerless against gun violence, like a celestial event with an omnipotence impenetrable by human influence.

Faith and religion enrich people's lives, and I respect that. But relying on it to stop shootings is the insidious and intentionally disingenuous messaging by conservative lawmakers to satisfy the NRA, the most powerful political lobby there is.

Governor Sandoval referred to the shooting as an act of cowardice. The real act of cowardice, sir, was vetoing Senate Bill 221 that strengthened gun-control rules by requiring background checks on customers in all gun sales in the state, including private transactions, as well as vetting the mental health of would-be purchasers. It passed the State Senate and was approved by the General Assembly before landing on your desk.

Your response: "While I support enhanced reporting requirements concerning mentally ill persons, the provisions of Senate Bill 221 pertaining to background checks for the private sale and transfer of firearms constitute an erosion of Nevadans' Second Amendment rights."

You didn't cause Stephen Paddock to massacre those innocents, but you did nothing to prevent him. Therefore you bear responsibility. 

As does Donald Trump, who encouraged his supporters on the campaign trail to shoot Hillary Clinton.

The word tragedy is inserted in every article regarding this shooting. The crime of murder and the deaths of dozens of people is tragic. But the other tragedy playing out for years is our failure to move the needle on gun violence, which former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called a public health issue.

Please spare me any cries of, "This is not the time to get political!"

Politics is the thing and the only thing that will change our gun culture. Politics is what got us here in the first place.

The Second Amendment states and only states “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” and prior to 2008, it did not guarantee an individual's rights to own a gun. The power of the NRA influenced the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, opening the door for handguns to be owned in the home. 

More specifically, politics is exactly the reason why Nevada has one of the weakest gun laws of any state in the nation:

  • You don't need a permit to buy a gun, nor are you required to get a license or register a firearm. There's no limit on the number of guns a person can buy at one time.
  • Carrying an unconcealed firearm in public is legal.
  • It's legal to own assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for ammunition.
  • There is no mandated waiting period before buying a gun.
  • You can bring a gun to a polling place, to a casino and to a bar.
  • Law enforcement are required to issue a concealed handgun permit to anyone who meets the basic qualifications.
  • Nevada honors concealed handgun licenses from other states.

If you're wondering how in the hell Paddock pulled this off and why he had 20 firearms, including an AR 15 and AK 47, as well as a bevy of ammunition, it's because Nevada couldn't make it any easier. 

This isn't about taking away people's guns, and it never has been. Had each and everyone of the 20,000 plus festival goers in Las Vegas been armed, could they have thwarted a hidden, skilled marksman from 32 stories above?

Rather it's about implementing background checks, mental health screenings, prohibiting people on the terror watch list from legally purchasing guns, and not marketing guns to children. Oh and requiring a fucking permit to buy a gun, a fucking mandatory waiting period, prohibiting fucking unconcealed fucking firearms in public, and revising the rest of Nevada's gun laws that read like they were written by a fucking warlord.

We have many sensible laws to mitigate the risks involved with pairing people with potentially dangerous items. See alcohol consumption and driving. See the life-threatening impact of tobacco use and cigarette pack warnings.

We are long and too many lives overdue for a change to our gun laws.

My parting thought to the Mike Pences, Brian Sandovals, politicians, and lobbyists of their ilk:

To hell with your thoughts and prayers.

For those who hunger to make a difference:

We need your activism.

We need your influence.

We need your votes.

 

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