Marcos Bretón

Your ‘thoughts and prayers’ are meaningless. To stop mass shootings we need to do this

Law enforcement investigate outside the home of James T. Hodgkinson on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Belleville, Ill. Officials said Hodgkinson has been identified as the man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Va.
Law enforcement investigate outside the home of James T. Hodgkinson on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Belleville, Ill. Officials said Hodgkinson has been identified as the man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Va. AP

Your “thoughts and prayers” mean nothing after a mass shooting. They mean less than nothing. When expressed on social media, as they were Tuesday and every other day someone trains a gun on innocent people, those well-meaning sentiments create the illusion of a caring community in the face of tragedy.

Opinion

In point of fact, these messages are expressions of denial wrapped in futility. What they say is: “There is nothing I can do about this senseless, unspeakable tragedy but type these meaningless words and share them with my ‘friends’ to make myself seem compassionate when in fact I’m a coward.”

Four wounded in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday when Republican members of Congress and others were shot while playing baseball.

Three killed and two wounded at almost the same time in San Francisco at a UPS facility.

In the face of endless, pointless violence, we are all cowards unless we raise our voices against violence and the root of violence: the proliferation of guns in America.

We are all cowards if we draw false conclusions about the motives and backgrounds of shooting suspects and use this misinformation to smear people whose political views we oppose.

We are all cowards if we care more about the race, identity or political affiliation of the shooters than anything else.

We are all cowards if we use each shooting to prop up our personal biases and politics.

We are all cowards if all we can think to say after each senseless shooting is: “Thoughts and prayers.”

Our thoughts and prayers mean nothing in the face of gun violence. Our politics and biases only distract us from the undeniable reality that it is too easy for bad actors to get guns and ammunition in our country.

How many more shootings will it take before we focus on guns? Instead, we obsess on how James Hodgkinson – the suspect in the Alexandria shooting –was virulently against President Trump’s policies and had volunteered for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

That’s all it took for social media to spread our national disease of denial on gun violence.

“One has to wonder if the vitriolic and hateful messaging of the far left in recent months contributed to this guy’s violent turn,” tweeted Dave Gilliard, a local conservative political strategist.

It appears that Breitbart News, Fox News, Alex Jones, Drudge and all the other purveyors of right-wing hate slipped Mr. Gilliard’s mind.

To pick up a gun and harm another human being is non-partisan. In that moment of inhumanity, Hodgkinson was not a liberal – he was an assailant just like the white supremacist who killed African American church congregants in Charleston in June 2015. He was just like the homophobe who killed 49 people almost one year ago to the day in Orlando. He was just like every other misguided criminal who picked up a gun and killed because buying a gun is as seemingly easy as buying a refrigerator.

You want to do something courageous? Confront the denial over guns in America. Because until you do – until we all do – our expressions of sympathy over each mass shooting will remain expressions of denial and cowardice.

Marcos Bretón: 916-321-1096, @MarcosBreton

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