Could we all please stop tweeting “I’ll pray for you” about gun violence?

The brutal shooting deaths of 49 gay men and women at an Orlando bar yesterday prompted the usual combination of justifiable outrage at the brokenness of the American political system and obnoxious comments from political figures (and others) whose words really shouldn’t be dignified by repeating.

It also brought hundreds of thousands of well-intentioned tweets offering prayers and best wishes—“praying for all those affected by the deaths in Orlando” and the like. I’ve tweeted things like this in the past, I’m sure we all have. It’s a way of expressing support, of saying those who are suffering right now are not alone.

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But—and I admit this may sound bizarre coming from a priest—when it comes to gun violence I’ve had it with “I’m praying for you.” It’s a beautiful and well-intentioned sentiment; it also allows us to wash our hands of these events. The victims are people “over there,” far from us, for whose suffering we bear no blame.

But that is not at all the case. What is happening throughout our country is not a series of sad and unexpected natural disasters, but utterly predictable acts of violence predicated on the easy accessibility of guns in our country. And while we might blame the big bad NRA or our incredibly-weak-kneed politicians for this reality (we’ve had children murdered, a congresswoman shot, hundreds of mass shootings every year and still our Congress can’t pass even the slightest change) in fact we are all responsible.

Ask yourself—and to be clear I am first and foremost talking to myself—since Newtown (just to pick one of the most horrific of this series of catastrophic events), what have I done to help change the situation in our country? How have I used my gifts, my time, my network of friends to actually try and make a difference?

I fear most of us will have nothing to show but a series of tweets. And frankly, this is probably worse than doing nothing because it makes us feel like we’ve done something when in fact we have not. We changed no one’s mind with our “thoughtful” series of 140-character posts, nor by arguing with gun advocates who have at this point completely disconnected from reality.  

No, years of gun related violence followed by outrage followed by political pronouncements that things have to change, followed by no change and further violence should make it quite clear: Our outrage alone makes no difference at all.

The fact is, Gandhi was right. We have to be the change we want to see in the world. We can’t just tweet it or throw at it “I feel for you” sentiment.

And if we’re not willing to actually do anything, to pressure our politicians, to bring up the issue at our PTAs and union meetings and board meetings (like for instance this week’s national bishops’ meeting), to bring to bear any and all of the incredible talents that we each have, then it’s abundantly clear, nothing is going to change.

If we want to pray about something, maybe we should pray about that.

Jim McDermott, S.J., is America's Los Angeles correspondent.

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J Cabaniss
1 year 5 months ago
In all the finger pointing at who might bear some responsibility for this shooting - from the NRA to weak-kneed politicians to, well, all of us - the writer neglected to mention the reason the shooter himself gave: he called 911 during the rampage and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. What does it take for us to recognize what happened here when the words of the perpetrator himself are ignored? The FBI investigated him back in 2013-2014 on suspicion of terrorist sympathies, but couldn't make a case to do anything. One would ordinarily say their suspicions were confirmed, but apparently it is inappropriate to suggest this might have anything to do with Islam, radical or otherwise.
Bruce Snowden
1 year 5 months ago
Father McDermott, you're right, no more prayers on gun violence, all of us WORKING as best we can to eliminate gun violence, rooted in God's Word expressed in James Ch. 2, Vs. 26, "Faith without works is dead" and also makes people dead!
William Rydberg
1 year 5 months ago
I seem to recollect that Jesus-God come in the flesh spent 33 years altogether before His Passion and Resurrection. Take Three of the 33 years leaves 30. Additionally, Jesus is our Exemplar as well as our God... Never underestimate the value of prayer... I'm sure that remaining 30 years of "Praying" has some "positives" in The Trinity's Providence... Just sayin... in Christ,
J Cosgrove
1 year 5 months ago
I hope Fr. McDermott is advocating concealed carry as the solution for all these mass shootings. If 5 or 6 people in the club had guns they were ready to use in case of a violent attack, the shooter would have been taken out after a couple shots and about 50 lives would have been saved. Better yet the shooter would not have tried to do it knowing that at any moment he could have been shot and would not achieve his objective. We would have had a non event.
Stanley Kopacz
1 year 5 months ago
An armed off-duty policeman DID engage the killer outside the club. He still killed 50 people. Florida is a concealed carry state and open carry under some circumstances such as camping. Florida does ban firearms in places where people get drunk. Even a gun-loving state like Florida thinks there's something wrong with drunks with guns.
Stanley Kopacz
1 year 5 months ago
Sorry, 49 people.
J Cosgrove
1 year 5 months ago
Thank you for agreeing with me. I assume that 40-50 people were in the establishment that were not drinking including security personnel. I wasn't aware of the prohibition of guns in a primarily alcoholic establishment in Florida but maybe it could be amended to allow for non-drinking people to carry. Nearly all people who carry are aware of the danger of having gun while drinking. And there are some severe penalties for it. No need to make a separate post to make a correction. You can use the edit function. I have to use it all the time to correct typos. It is very handy.
Stanley Kopacz
1 year 5 months ago
Armed security personnel, "good guys with guns", didn"t stop him. People drink and drive. The aggressor with a military firearm has the advantage. Better to ban them and confiscate as Australia did. It seems to have worked. I do go to dances. How do you dance with a concealed weapon. "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you glad to see me?"
Philip Cyscon
1 year 5 months ago
Criminals aren't deterred from committing crimes by the fear of being caught or punished. They certainly wouldn't be deterred by the fear of being challenged. Given that, why would anyone expect a self-described terrorist as being deterred by those fears? It's a naïve idea. There is a good reason why Florida and other states prohibit carrying of weapons in taverns, bars and nightclubs. Trained shooters have enough trouble channeling their emotions and adrenaline in a shooting situation. Five or six shooters with blood alcohol levels would have just as likely shot each other not knowing that they were supposed to be the good guys.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 5 months ago
I am a "supporter" of ways of keeping weapons of war off the streets and out of the hands of the insane, the criminal or enemy of Americans. I put the word in scare quotes as I too do not know how to make such a thing happen, apart from the meager power of my words and votes for this or that law, just in my state or community. My support is further tempered by the knowledge that strict anti-gun laws already exist in most big cities in the US, and in most countries in Europe, and that such laws do not seem to be able to stop the Islamic jihadi killings there. The old saw that guns don't kill people, but people kill people, seems most apt when it comes to the Islamic Jihadi attacks. They have used guns, bombs, knives, cars, planes, defenestration, strangling, blunt instruments and fire to kill their victims. They kill just as effectively in nations with the tightest gun laws, maybe even more easily. So, fine to feel good about talking, voting, persuading to get more gun laws. But, prayer and conversion may have a better chance at bringing change. It also seems egregiously wrong-headed to focus only on guns or hate when dealing with the Islamic Jihadi threat. Imagine if our response to the Nazi threat of WW2 was to focus on gun laws or hate-calling. It is incredible to me that the President seems so unwilling to even mention the actual threat, as if this killing was the same as in Newtown. The phantom fear of Islamophobia seems to completely paralyze him, and so many of our politicians and media and even our legal system and law enforcement. Imagine if during World War 2, a US citizen had spewed Nazi rhetoric for years, to co-workers, family and anyone who would listen, had visited Nazi Germany, was a known associate of a known Nazi killer (the suicide bomber who attended the very same mosque as Mateen), had been picked up for questioning by the FBI twice, and who still was let go! Amazing. The only way to end ISIS-inspired violence is to end ISIS, completely, decisively, where they live. President Obama can only hold his head down, say things like never again, talk in general terms about gun violence, say we don't know much about the motives, and then wait for the next atrocity to happen (already happened in France today - husband and wife police officers killed by a knife-wielding Jihadist).
Douglas Fang
1 year 5 months ago
“The only way to end ISIS-inspired violence is to end ISIS, completely, decisively, where they live. President Obama can only hold his head down, say things like never again, talk in general terms about gun violence, say we don't know much about the motives, and then wait for the next atrocity to happen”. I found a very relevant answer/question to the above comment from the following article in NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/01/opinion/politicians-and-the-lies-that-matter.html “Why hasn’t President Obama been a “real man” and just carpet-bombed ISIS off the face of the earth? Answer: 1.) ISIS is embedded in urban areas, among Iraqi and Syrian civilians, so we can’t carpet-bomb the terrorists without killing all the civilians around them. 2.) If Obama sent the 82nd Airborne into Mosul and wiped out ISIS, after horrific door-to-door fighting, the morning after the battle we would own Mosul, because there is no agreement among Sunni tribes there, let alone the Kurds, Shiites and neighboring Turkey, over who should control Mosul post-ISIS. In other words, we’d be stuck governing it.” Just look at the on-going battle in Fallujah to see how tough and cruel to defeat just 2,000 ISIS fighters embedded in a population of 80,000 people. Is it morally acceptable to kill most of these innocent civilians in order to completely and decisively end ISIS there?
Lisa Weber
1 year 5 months ago
We are going to be reading about these mass shootings until we take machine guns off the streets. I don't know how many shootings it will take, but this is one more to add to the list. Machine guns have no place in civilian life - period.
Douglas Fang
1 year 5 months ago
http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-14/orlando-shows-us-our-very-scary-future Lisa, I agree very much with your comment – “Machine guns have no place in civilian life - period.” I utterly fail to see any sensible reason for a regular person to own assault type machine guns. However, given the current political condition, I don’t see any hope for such a ban. The NRA grip on our "Law Makers" is too strong. In the other hand, I do hope that at least we can put in some reasonable law to prevent questionable people, i.e. people that have been interrogated by the FBI, to obtain these guns. One of the easiest thing to do is to close some gun loop holes, i.e no background check for second hand gun buying... If as a society, we cannot even come to this minimally no-nonsense agreement, I don’t know how long before our society will disintegrate… It seems that ISIS now can see a “loop hole” in our gun law and with entice potential independent sympathizers or lone wolves, which are almost impossible to detect and prevent, to legally obtain machine guns for mass killing in our society. Orlando will be just a statistic…
J Cabaniss
1 year 5 months ago
"Machine guns have no place in civilian life." This is true, and it is why it is already illegal for a civilian to own one. The gun used by the Islamic terrorist was a magazine fed, semi-automatic rifle, not a machine gun. It is also worth pondering whether we should be more concerned about the weapons, or the radical Islamists who are so anxious to use them.
Stanley Kopacz
1 year 5 months ago
The basic problem is looneytoons with easy access to military small arms, whether Islamic radicals or your general looneytoons.
Michael DeLorme
1 year 5 months ago
Maybe if we all join hands and pray for a miracle, guns will un-invent themselves, Father. I too am way beyond patience with gun control advocates not spitting it out what exactly they want or what they imagine will change. If some world government were to confiscate every single firearm in existence---or if some unprecedented incident equivalent to spontaneous combustion could pulverize them all out of existence---there will always be someone living in some cave somewhere who will know how to make guns and will make and sell them on the black market, illegally. And crazy people like the Orlando shooter will always know how to get a hold of a gun---illegally. So what do people mean when they talk about "stricter gun laws?" I'm 69 years old and never owned a gun. Don't belong to the NRA. But I've always recognized that all talk of gun control is itself a fantasy---with one difference: right now, good people with guns are able to counter the bad people with guns---and do all the time, it's just not reported very often. Outlaw them then and, as the cliche goes, only lawbreakers will seek out the black market for illegal guns.
Stanley Kopacz
1 year 5 months ago
You can do self-defense with a revolver. A semi-automatic rifle is not even practical except for mass slaughter.
Vincent Gaglione
1 year 5 months ago
Weapons designed from or modified of weapons of war have no place in society, second amendment or not! If we logically follow Justice Scalia at his literal word as a constitutional "originalist", then it seems to me the Founding Fathers, who only knew crude muskets as arms, undoubtedly presumed such in what they wrote in the second amendment. How we can construe their meaning to an Uzi or AK-47 or AR-15 today baffles me? The bottom line purpose of a gun is to kill. The issue is a pro-life issue. One would never know that from the rhetoric in many of the comments here. (The self-defense theory is good until you hear the authorities speak of "collateral" damage in these scenarios). I wish Father McDermott might have aimed his fire at our institutional Catholic Church which published a florid explanation to decry the gun culture in which we live but offers no real moral imperatives to Catholics about it. When did you last hear a sermon at Sunday Mass explaining the moral implications of owning a gun? Resorting to prayers for the dead and the survivors and relatives is just about all our churches offer in a culture of unfettered gun possession. It is embarrassing at the least; most probably a serious sin from my perspective.

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