Another mass shooting, more ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

Published 10:16 am Friday, November 10, 2017

by John Micek

Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now,” U.S. House Speaker Paul J. Ryan, R-Wisc., tweeted to widely — and entirely justified — derision on Sunday.

Save it, Mr. Speaker. Your thoughts and prayers are years too late.

Offering thoughts and prayers to the families of those gunned down in a house of God by disgruntled Air Force veteran Devin Kelly profanes the memory of the dead.

Offering thoughts and prayers cheapens the act actual spiritualism they were engaged in when they died.

Thoughts and prayers?

Just stop.

It’s an anodyne construction that’s now moved far beyond genuine sentiment into meaningless prattle. It’s a moralistic dodge that’s become an excuse for doing nothing. It’s a shield behind which leaders who are either too spineless or too brainless to actually confront America’s tragic love affair with firearms now cower.

Thoughts and prayers?

Ryan and his cohorts on Capitol Hill offered thoughts and prayers after innocent children were slaughtered in Sandy Hook. They offered thoughts and prayers after San Bernardino. After Charleston After the Pulse nightclub shooting. After Las Vegas.

The one thing they did not do in that riot of genuflection, in that paroxysm of piety, in that meaningless display of sentiment — was act.

You — and every one of your colleagues who folded like a cheap suit in the face of pressure from National Rifle Association — singularly failed to act.

Thoughts and prayers?

No one wants your thoughts and prayers anymore, Mr. Speaker. The voters in your hometown districts didn’t elect members of the clergy.

They have actual members of the clergy for that. One of them even died in Charleston, remember?

They elected their state representatives and senators, and their U.S. representatives and senators, their governors and their president to do one thing: To attack problems and solve them.

Once upon a time, before Newtown, before Charleston, before Pulse, before Vegas, before Sutherland Springs, which lost 7 percent of its population on Sunday — honest debate over how to balance public safety against the legitimate Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owner  might have had its place.

But we’re long past that now. That kind of discussion is mere tragicomedy.

Remember how we were going to try to regulate bump stocks after Vegas? Right, no one else does either.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who worked with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to push expanded background checks, says he hasn’t given up hope. But he’s also realistic enough to know that the current political topography makes such an expansion nearly impossible.

“I still support the policy in that legislation and I’ll continue to be looking for opportunities to move forward with it,” Toomey said last month.

Still, Toomey stopped short of calling for a bump-stock ban in the wake of a spree that left 59 people dead and hundreds more injured at the Mandalay Bay casino and hotel.

Some of his colleagues, however, do get the need for action:

“Senseless gun violence has torn apart another community — this time in a house of worship. When do we say enough is enough?” U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, said Sunday, her sentiments echoed by others.

But not everyone.

President Donald Trump on Sunday said Kelly’s murderous rampage wasn’t about guns. It was about mental illness.

“This isn’t a guns situation,” Trump said. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.”

Ryan once bleated meaningfully about mental health reform as well, saying it’s “a critical ingredient to making sure we can try and prevent these things from happening.”

Yet, in February, Trump, with little public notice, signed a bill into law, passed by the Congress over which Ryan partly presides, rolling back an Obama-era regulation making it harder for people with a mental illness to purchase a weapon.

In an acidic Tweet on Sunday that perfectly captured the tragic absurdity of Washington’s complete abdication of its responsibilities, MSNBC anchor Joy Reid noted that “the Bible teaches us that faith without works is dead. Do something or say nothing.”

Thoughts and prayers? We’ve had quite enough.

Now do your jobs.

JOHN L. MICEK, an award-winning political journalist, is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at