The Ugly Hypocrisy of “Thoughts and Prayers”


When you cut through all the bullshit, the only remaining explanation for the unwavering opposition of Second Amendment absolutists to any gun regulation is that they really don’t care at all about the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year as the result of gun violence. Whether the victims are school kids, people at a nightclub, employees at a place of work or random strangers, their abstract right to have unlimited access to guns and ammunition trumps any concern for human life.

Truth be told, they don’t really even pretend that they care. Vapid expressions of “thoughts and prayers” no longer carry any meaning at all. They are uttered in a totally pro forma manner with only the names and location changed from one massacre to the next.

Pretending that their response is a spiritual or religion one is beneath contempt. When the same mantra is repeated over and over again, it’s hard to see it as anything  other than a formulaic alternative to compassion for human suffering.

After the thoughts and prayers, there is usually an admonition that “now” is not the right time to talk about gun regulations. The cynicism underlying that observation is breathtaking. There is, as demonstrated by the repetition of that phrase, clearly never a right time.

Gun advocates have no tolerance for facts.  The gaping disparities between gun deaths in the United States and every other industrialized nation in the world is brushed aside as irrelevant. It is in fact the most glaring example of “American exceptionalism” even if the gun enthusiasts would take exception to that statement.

We are frequently told that no public policy can possibly make a difference.  Pay no attention to other nations, such as Australia and the countries of Western Europe, which have all enacted measures that have made a difference.  Similarly, data that demonstrates lower rates of gun violence in states with stricter laws is discounted as flawed without any effort to examine it seriously.

No set of regulations will ever eliminate all gun violence, yet opponents argue that anything less than a perfect system is not even worth trying.  They point to gun violence in states with stricter regulations yet ignore the ease with which weapons can be transported across state lines as well as all the loopholes that exist.  And, as we recently discovered that the Defense Department often fails to submit relevant information about offenders to state officials, the existence of laws doesn’t mean that they are always enforced.

A particularly depraved excuse for gun violence is that the real cause of deaths is people with mental illnesses using guns.  The hypocrisy is piled deep on this one.  First of all, those resorting to this argument also resist measures that would limit access to guns by anyone, including those with mental illnesses.

The more cynical part of this argument, however, is that those using it show no inclination to support funding for more mental health care in this country.  Republican members of Congress are no more willing to include funds in the federal budget for mental heath treatment than they are to outlaw bump stocks or require background checks.

One comment I read recently by a gun absolutist was that his right to “enjoy” his AR-15 overrides any argument for gun regulations.  The selfish inhumanity of that comment tells you almost everything you need to know about what’s wrong with the gun debate in this country.

Dead bodies are regularly on the front page of every newspaper in the country.  The images lead the evening news.  The only certainty about the most recent tragedy is that it will be replaced in our consciousness within a very short time by another grisly shooting.

The script will remain the same.

Let me be very clear: despite the pious rhetoric, the defenders of absolute gun rights do not care at all about the continuing carnage in our schools, in our streets, in our places of leisure and in offices and factories.  They mouth the words, but there is nothing behind them.

If you think that statement goes too far, give me evidence that gun advocates care about the human lives that are lost to guns.  Thoughts and prayers change nothing.  If you identify a problem, you work to find a solution even if it is an imperfect one.  The reality is that those 17 kids who were mowed down in Florida on Wednesday don’t register at all with those Americans who see the Second Amendment as the only part of the Constitution that matters.

Their “thoughts and prayers” won’t be of much consolation when they are rotting in hell.