Rifles are seen inside the gun section of an American sporting goods store. CNS photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters

Bob Brehl: Thoughts and prayers … but no action

By 
  • September 4, 2019

Over the Labour Day weekend, there sure were a lot of U.S. politicians conveying their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families of the latest mass shooting, but no visible action on doing anything about the American gun epidemic.

One of the better lines about the lack of political will to implement common sense gun controls came from an exasperated Republican strategist named Ana Navarro.

“We don’t send them to Washington to pray,” Navarro told CNN, as she listed tragedy after tragedy from the 20 dead school children at Sandy Hook to the murdered teens at Parkland High School to the Las Vegas concert goers and more.

“And nothing gets done.” 

Born in Nicaragua, Navarro came to the U.S. with her family when she was a little girl after the leftist Sandinistas seized power in 1980. She is a fellow at The Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. Though Republican, she has been a harsh critic of the current Republican president, unlike that Trump puppet in charge of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who stalls gun restriction legislation from getting to the floor.

And, of course, Donald Trump didn’t disappoint those expecting buffoonery in his reaction to the deadly shooting in Odessa, Tx., that killed seven and injured two dozen more, including a 17-month-old girl who was shot in the face but miraculously survived.

“Over the last five, six or seven years, no matter how strong you need the background checks, it wouldn’t have stopped any of it,” Trump claimed.

Who’s to say all those deadly gunmen would not have gotten weeded out had there been better background checks? Even if one took Trump at his word, which would be as smart as believing a convicted perjurer, what an incredibly defeatist attitude for someone holding arguably the most powerful office in the world. But what do you expect from a man who suggested maybe the U.S. should drop a nuclear bomb into Hurricane Dorian as a way to stop the storm?

Conspiracy theorists may be wondering why Trump seized on the issue of background checks. It was only a month ago he blamed mental illness as the reason for so many shootings. A tougher backgrounds check bill passed the House a few months ago in a 240-190 vote, but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. McConnell has been getting heat for sitting on the bill and keeping it from getting to the Senate floor for a vote.

After the latest mass shootings in his home state of Texas, Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was so angry he dropped an F-bomb on live television when talking about all the do-nothing politicians seemingly immune to the innocent lives lost.

O’Rourke told CNN’s Dana Bash that “thoughts and prayers” have “done nothing” to curb rampant mass shootings across America.

“A hundred killed daily in the United States of America. We’re averaging about 300 mass shootings a year. No other country comes close. So yes, this is f—ed up,” O’Rourke said. 

“If we don’t call it out for what it is, if we’re not able to speak clearly, if we’re not able to act decisively then we will continue to have this kind of bloodshed in America, and I cannot accept that,” he said.

The Odessa shooting follows another mass shooting in early August that killed at least 22 people at a shopping centre in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso. Hours after that shooting, nine people were killed in a shooting in Ohio.

O’Rourke has called for stringent background checks, the creation of a national gun registry and the mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles. He also wants the minimum age to buy a gun to be 21, with an exception for younger people with hunting licences. The gun licences would last five years, and those who receive them would be required to complete a safety training program.

Though he speaks forcefully and passionately on the issue of gun control, it seems unlikely O’Rourke could get elected president in a country known as the world’s arsenal for handguns and assault rifles. The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey recently found there are approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms worldwide, a figure that’s 32-per-cent higher than a previous estimate in 2006. And, of course, 400 million of them  are owned by U.S. citizens. That averages out to about 1.2 guns for every man, woman and child in America.

Yes, O’Rourke is certainly correct; things are messed up. But our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims. 

(Brehl is a writer and author of many books.)

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