”Pray for Las Vegas,” beckon billboards and social media memes as the body count in yet another mass killing in this country rises — 59 people dead, as of this writing, and more than 500 injured, this time by your run-of-the-mill aging Baby Boomer.
Another setting, a country-music festival, and another kind of terrorist or mad man (or both), but the same type of assault weaponry — fast, furious and deadly.
And I have to ask all the good-hearted Americans dutifully heeding the national call to prayer: What is God telling you?
We prayed for Dallas, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Chattanooga, Charleston, Marysville, Isla Vista, Killeen, Washington, D.C., Santa Monica, Newtown, Brookfield, Minneapolis, Oak Creek, Aurora, Oakland, Seal Beach, Tucson, Manchester, Huntsville, Killeen, Binghamton, DeKalb, Omaha, Blacksburg… shall I go on?
Remember Columbine, on April 20, 1999, the 12 students and one teacher killed and the 21 injured?
In that aftermath, the catchy motto became just that: “Remember Columbine.” But we didn’t, did we? The lessons of the horror when two students unleash weapons of war on a high school campus went unheeded and mass shootings became the new normal, with killers upping the ante as if there were a contest open for largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
We didn’t remember Columbine with any more purpose than we’re praying with purpose now.
The dead are gone. Families left behind are still torn and grieving, their lives forever changed by random firepower in an instant of, as the president called it, “an act of pure evil.” Evil perpetrated thanks to readily available weapons that have no place in society but are peddled like a public service, though NRA-loving President Trump didn’t say that.
So what are we going to do about it this time around other than to pray to comfort ourselves and shed the guilt for loving guns over life?
You know now for sure that your loved one could be next. It’s Russian roulette and the table is set. Be at the wrong school, theater, workplace, music festival — and tag, you’re it.
Pray all you can, sisters and brothers, because we need it. But empty gestures that lead to no meaningful action in the wake of fresh grief over the Las Vegas shooting aren’t going to eradicate the mass killings in America.
In Florida, where the perpetrator of the latest tragedy lived for a few years, the governor is flying state flags at half-staff to honor Las Vegas victims. There’s great hypocrisy in his easy reach of an affecting symbol.
Here’s a more relevant image: The gun lobby owns Florida. If politicians could redo the state seal, it would say “In Guns We Trust.” Here’s a more relevant fact: One child is shot in Florida every 17 hours. The state has the highest rates of accidental gun killings by children, yet deaths like that of a 4-year-old girl Tampa girl who reached into her grandmother’s purse for candy, found a gun instead and shot herself don’t even raise an eyebrow beyond the curiosity factor. Add to this the routine teen-on-teen shooting sprees and the upset spouse who decimates a family with firepower.
Yet under Gov. Rick Scott’s administration the gun worshipping culture has flourished to new heights. The number of gun manufacturers in Florida has quadrupled, thanks to the hand-out of tax incentives to dutifully serve the interests of the powerful National Rifle Association, which bankrolls political campaigns.
Just last June, the NRA boasted that Scott signed into law two bills “we have been urging him to sign” obliterating any “duty to retreat” by a gun-carrier and making it harder for prosecutors and judges to bring killers to justice in cases where self-defense is claimed. That the bills passed is the handiwork of the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature, littered with biographies of legislators who proudly claim NRA membership.
Guns kill. They don’t peel apples or oranges or chop vegetables and wood. Their sole reason for existing is to kill and maim.
Pray if you must, but your billboards and memes are better used to rally for blood donations, money to bury victims and to put the orphaned through college.
Pray if it makes you feel better, but vote with the same fervor and mindfulness.
Pray that all of the state legislators and congressmen purchased by the gun lobby will be booted from office so that sensible gun control laws can be passed. The NRA lobby only gets more greedy. Imagine the even deadlier scenario in Las Vegas if the NRA has its way with preposterous legislation now in Congress that allows silencers and armor-piercing bullets to be sold like guns, which is to say like candy, bad for you and readily available.
Meaningful “Pray for Las Vegas” should lead to gun control. The original sin — and the pure evil in modern-day America — is the unrestrained proliferation of assault weapons. You don’t need them to protect your home or business. You don’t need them to hunt.
If there’s a God listening to prayers, he’s been telling us for years to do our part to stop the killings.