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The Covenant School tragedy shows how more prayers will never stop gun violence
The Nashville school had plenty of prayers. But that's no match for a killer armed with assault weapons.
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In what has become an all too familiar story, all because Republican officials continue prioritizing guns over humans, another six people are dead after a mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. Three students (all aged nine) and three staffers died because of a shooter armed with “two assault-style weapons and a handgun.”
As of this writing, the motive of the shooter is unknown, so I won’t waste time speculating on that.
But can we at least put to rest the suggestion, that never made any sense, that more prayer is the solution to our gun epidemic?
I’m not talking about the trite, lazy way many politicians offer “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of mass murders, as if that’ll deflect from their own refusal to take action to prevent gun violence. Many people say it as a condolence because they just can’t think of anything else to say. It’s not going away anytime soon.
What can change is prayer as a literal answer to mass shootings.
This act of violence occurred at a private Christian school affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America and run as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church. As far as religious denominations go, very few are more conservative than this one, especially on “culture war” issues. I say that only to point out how this was not a school lacking in prayer. They prayed all the time. Yesterday’s school day even began with a chapel service.
But for years now, one of the many explanations put forth by Republicans who are allergic to gun safety measures is that public schools don’t have forced Christian prayers. If they had prayers, the rhetoric goes, they wouldn’t have these shootings.
Last year, televangelist Kenneth Copeland said all school shootings are the result of the 1963 Supreme Court decision that removed mandatory Christian prayer from public schools, implying we needed to bring it back.
Last year, former Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said prayers would prevent mass shootings:
… If we heard more prayers from leaders of this country instead of taking God’s name in vain, we wouldn’t have the mass killings like we didn’t have before prayer was eliminated from school.
A few years ago, immediately after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said “the lack of thought and prayers is probably the single biggest factor” when it came to gun violence. (Yesterday, proving irony is dead, he lamented how “some will make this a political issue before the names of the victims or the shooter or a motive is even known.”)
And it’s still going on now:
The Covenant School prayed and prayed often. Unfortunately (and predictably), prayers are no match for a killer armed with assault weapons.
Keep in mind that the people calling for more prayer never say that when they actually want something to change. When it comes to elections, Republicans never ask Christians to pray them into office. When it comes to abortion, Republicans never ask Christians to pray that people won’t have them. They know actions speak louder than words. They know passing bills or installing like-minded judges will actually get stuff done.
When it comes to guns, they call for more prayer—or mandatory prayer—because even they know how useless it will be.
It won’t faze them that this shooting happened at a Christian school because they say the same prepared prayer line when shootings occur in churches, synagogues, and mosques.
We don’t need forced prayer in schools now because the gun crisis isn’t the result of forced prayers being removed from schools back then. There was no spike in school shootings in the decades following those Supreme Court decisions upholding religious neutrality in schools. Not until Columbine, really, did we start to see these horrific mass shootings by people who just wanted to unleash their rage and had access to weapons to make it happen.
A lack of prayer cannot be blamed for a uniquely American problem. Other nations don’t have forced Christianity in school. They also struggle with mental illness. They play video games. Yet mass shootings in those countries are incredibly rare. The common denominator in all the massacres we see in our country are the weapons. (Often, the same kind.)
Want to reduce mass shootings? Put more obstacles in the way for gun owners. Especially people who want weapons that can kill several people in seconds. Raise the legal age to own one. Make owners go through a certain amount of training. Register the weapons the way we register cars.
There are many more possible answers to the problem, but conservatives are hell-bent on fighting every single one of them because they love semi-automatic weapons more than children. Dead kids are a price Republicans will gladly pay to continue their violent hobbies. The NRA always takes precedence over the PTA.
We don’t need more guns in the hands of teachers—something that has routinely been proposed by the same people who don’t trust teachers to pick out books. We don’t need the death penalty for shooters as Republican Senator Rick Scott idiotically proposed (despite the Covenant shooter getting gunned down by police, putting a wrench in that plan anyway). We definitely don’t need congress members like the Republican representing Nashville, Rep. Andy Ogles, fetishizing guns like they’re a personality quirk and fun for children.
And now, since it appears that the shooter was a transgender former student, you can bet conservatives will cite that as the sole cause. Anything to get attention off their weapons of choice. (Even if it turns out this was some personal vendetta against the Christian school, the murders could not have occurred this easily or quickly without the shooter’s ability to acquire assault weapons.)
Republican lawmakers in Tennessee certainly don’t care. They recently passed a law banning drag shows in the name of protecting kids, but you can bet they’ll do absolutely nothing to protect kids from actual threats to their safety. In fact, it’s the opposite. Those lawmakers have proposed a bill to lower the age to legally carry a handgun in public from 21 to 18.
Prayers aren’t going to fix our problem. They never did.
And any God who lets six people get murdered because not enough people were stroking His Holy Ego isn’t a God worth worshipping anyway.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)
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