How to stop the epidemic of mass shootings that has claimed more American lives than all the bombs, bullets and bayonets in all of the wars in our nation’s history combined? According to the highest law enforcement official in Texas, the answer is guns, more guns, and guns in society’s most sacred spaces at that.
On Sunday, 26 close-knit parishioners, including a pregnant woman and many children, were massacred at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas by a gunman with a felonious history of violence toward women, children and animals who was nevertheless able to easily purchase an assault-style rifle over the counter. Seven percent of the tiny town in that open carry state died on Sunday while praying to a god whose name was frequently invoked as it always is in the wake of such ceaseless slaughters.
According to some, “God” was answering the prayers of the Sutherland Springs 26 when “He” bestowed upon them the divine privilege of martyrdom, much as the same “God” favors the fallen jihadist when “His” name is pronounced Allah. Others took a less fatalistic — but no less insane — view of things, arguing that the way to stanch the incessant bleeding born of too many bullets in too many guns is to have more bullets in more guns. Responding to the latest of more than 300 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared on Fox News amid a fusillade of thoughts and prayers on Sunday to push his guns everywhere agenda:
“We’ve had shootings at churches, you know, forever. It’s going to happen again. And so, we need people in churches — either professional security or at least arming some of the parishioners or the congregation — so that they can respond, when something like this happens again. All I can say is in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have conceal carry. And so… there’s always the opportunity that gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”
Paxton’s ludicrous assertion drew immediate and harsh rebuke from Texas Democrats, who aren’t exactly your repeal the Second Amendment types. “Something is woefully wrong when elected officials wring their hands and suggest we can only stay safe by bringing arsenals to church,” Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the state Democratic Party, said. “Texans deserve more from their chief law enforcement official than inaction and willful ignorance. The answer to horrific gun violence is not more of the same. Lord knows we have already had plenty of that.”
We sure have. After 26 people, including 20 six- and seven-year-old children, were slaughtered in their classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut five years ago, National Rifle Association executive director Wayne LaPierre pushed for guns in schools. This, like nearly all mass shootings, was great for gun company stock prices and for the NRA, which boosts membership and contributions in the wake of deadly tragedy by preying upon fears — sadly unrealized — that the government is coming to take away your guns. Senseless, needless death is big business, and business is booming. Don’t forget for one second that more than a gun owners’ advocacy group, the NRA is the world’s most powerful firearms industry lobby.
Thoughts, prayers and NRA political contributions keep lawmakers from enacting even the most basic common sense gun control measures. While they think and pray, Americans get shot dead at a rate of about 30 a day. If all of the victims of gun violence in America over the past half century were resurrected from the dead and gathered together in one place, that place would be the 5th-largest city in the nation. Bigger than Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas or San Francisco. Bigger than the population of 11 states.
We declare all-out war on Islamist terrorism, even when an American is more likely to be killed on US soil by falling furniture, right-wing extremists, police officers or armed toddlers. Yet our (mis)leaders pursue policies and actions that make it more likely for terrorists to attack us, embolden white nationalists and killer cops and make it easierfor toddlers to shoot us. It’s as if they’re not at all serious about solving any of these problems. Witness President Donald Trump blaming Sutherland Springs on mental illness — just months after making it easier for mentally ill people to get guns.
There is no sane reason why you or I or anyone who isn’t wearing a camouflage uniform should be granted the sacred and inviolable right to bear pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, submachine guns, machine guns, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, anti-tank guns and other instruments of mass death and destruction. Then again, there is nothing sane about a society in which possessing weapons of war is a constitutionally protected right, but access to food, clean air and water, housing, health care and education is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it.