Nothing has become more trite than a congressman, state legislator or some other elected official tweeting out how their “thoughts and prayers” are with the families of today’s innocent who got gunned down.
I’ll stipulate that most of the senators, House reps, assemblymen, governors and U.S. presidents who peel that meme off in the requisite number of characters and hash tags mean well. I’ll believe they genuinely feel sorrow for strangers who sent their children off to school, their spouses off to work or their friends off to a concert and then got the horrifying news that someone loved more than anything was wounded or shot dead.
But when the thoughts and prayers come between tweets about how lousy the opposing party’s policies are, or how brilliant the legislative milestones were of their own party, it’s galling.
Part of the problem is the sheer quantity of people who warrant all these thoughts and prayers. There are so many mass shootings, police shootings, random shootings and accidental shootings in this country.
Last year, there were about 115,000 shooting incidents, according to a variety of sources that count that kind of thing. You see, the government doesn’t actually keep count of the shootings in the United States. Sure, the FBI kind of keeps track of crimes, but there are so many differences between states and cities. You would be amazed how many people just show up with bullet wounds at hospitals.
For all the talk among elected officials about how concerned they are about gun violence, there isn’t even a government agency that actually tracks and monitors it. In fact, the NRA is so frightened of what that might look like, and how it might create public outrage, that they’ve successfully persuaded Congress to muzzle the Centers for Disease Control and prevent them from researching the plague of American gun violence and death.
So private organizations comb thousands of public safety reports and news sources to piece numbers together. The numbers from the BradyCampaign.org and GunViolenceArhcive.org are astounding:
• 115,000 shootings, 34,000 gun deaths, 21,000 suicides
• 700 children ages 11 and under die; 3,200 teenagers under 18 die
• 350 die in mass shootings
• 350 cops shot, about 70 die
• 16,000 “oops” shootings, 500 die
That’s a lot of thoughts and prayers. It’s so many, that the hackneyed phrase now gets tossed out like “gesundheit.”
I’m sure there are public relations firms advising politicians on how soon after a thoughts-and prayers tweet is acceptable to resume tweet attacks at political opponents, or point out how well those tax breaks are or aren’t helping out the lucky Americans who don’t yet need their thoughts and prayers.
The only thing more insulting than T’s and P’s in tweets by politicians are the inevitable calls for “enough is enough,” which Gov. John Hickenlooper invoked this week after thoughts and prayers went out to Colorado Springs Deputy Micah Flick, the third cop gunned down on duty in Colorado so far this year.
Enough? Columbine was enough. Virginia Tech was enough. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was enough. The Aurora theater shooting and Sandy Hook Elementary School were more than enough. And so was Platte Canyon High School, Arapahoe High School, the Pulse nightclub and Las Vegas. Innocent kids gunned down at school in Kentucky just a few weeks ago were surely enough. The story, however, barely survived the 24-hour news cycle after politicians here and across the country tweeted their thoughts and prayers. For most Americans, 350 or so people killed in mass shootings every year are enough. The 66 cops gunned down last year, weren’t they enough?
No, Gov. Hickenlooper. Clearly enough is never enough.
We’ve learned to live with gun violence so prolific that episodes come like reports about inclement weather or car crashes. They’re inevitable.
I don’t mind all the people who shake their fists at all of this gun carnage and insist that this is enough. But I don’t want to ever here it again from our elected leaders, who are the only ones empowered to do something — if they’re willing to risk their jobs.
The choke hold the NRA and other gun-rights organizations have on the political system is ghastly.
This year, state Sen. Mike Merrifield, alone, sponsored a gun bill banning infamous bump stocks. That’s the trigger device Las Vegas mass-shooter Stephen Paddock used to effectively turn his semi-automatic assault rifles into all out machine-guns. The NRA has put the kibosh on what looked earlier to be a slam-dunk ban by Congress. And so the NRA chill has spread across the country, including right here in Colorado. Merrifield, foolishly brave, can’t even get a bill sponsor in the Democratic-controlled state House. Democrats, too, live in fear of NRA sponsored political opponents who are only too happy to tweet out their thoughts and prayers and then fight against meaningful, common-sense gun control.
No, if 115,000 shooting incidents every year aren’t enough, if we can stand by and watch parents of children gunned down in kindergarten vilified and the catastrophe spun as a fake-news conspiracy, if we can’t even agree to license guns like we do cars and periodically make sure owners aren’t severely mentally ill, then this is nowhere near enough.
Instead, we’re sentenced to live in a country where we hope every day we don’t win the perverse American lottery and warrant the need for the thoughts and prayers from our cowardly elected officials.
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