Column: Praying is still not a solution, just like it wasn’t 2 weeks ago

The Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah of America is viewed through a gate, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. A heavily armed man and woman opened fire Wednesday on a holiday banquet for his co-workers, killing multiple people and seriously wounding others in a precision assault, authorities said. Hours later, they died in a shootout with police. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)

I feel like a broken record, mostly because I have very little to say that’s actually worthwhile, but also because the misanthropy deep in my viscera says problems in our world aren’t going to change any time soon, if ever. There was egregious violence in Paris, Beirut and now a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and a facility for disabled persons in San Bernardino, California.

While I am conflating two divisive political issues – terrorism abroad and gun control in the United States– one must acknowledge there is an inextricable link between the ready access to weapons used for committing acts of godless violence and the recurring incidences of mass shootings.

Yes, even though France has strict gun laws prohibiting automatics and restricting semi-automatics and handguns, Europe’s porous borders and burgeoning black market allow for relatively easy passage of these weapons, thus rendering the state still vulnerable to a terrorist attack like what we saw a couple weeks ago.

Laws don’t deter criminals, but they evidently make homicides less frequent than that of the United States, where in 2013, firearms deaths occurred at a rate of 3.2 per 100,000 people, compared to France’s 0.4 that year.

These cases at home might also be regarded as incidences of domestic terrorism, too. Going off of the FBI’s definition according to the Code of Federal Regulations – “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The shooting at Planned Parenthood could meet those criteria (as the shooter professed anti-abortion views), and the FBI is probing the culprits behind San Bernardino for a motive that could possibly classify it as such.

So, then what are some of our esteemed statesmen doing to address the rampant gun violence with terroristic undertones? It appears they have other priorities, like praying. In my article two weeks ago, I partly addressed the utter vacuity of offering your “thoughts and prayers” on social media because it’s purely a formality of religious respect that does absolutely nothing.

The New York Daily News stood in accord with my opinion when it recently issued a magazine with the cover reading “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” in response to the myriad Republican congressmen – Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, etc. – encouraging prayer.

Now, it’s one thing if you’re purely a citizen and have next to no political power, but it’s another if you’re a Senator or a Representative who actually has the ability to enact legislation that would make the need to pray for victims a lot less common. But when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan presided over the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony Wednesday, he made no mention of gun control policies, instead retreating to the same tired rhetoric of mental health reform, despite that much scientific literature has discouraged the notion that mentally ill people are to blame for incessant acts of violence.

Jeffrey Swanson, a noted psychiatrist at Duke University, noted in Newsweek that a 2001 study of mass shooters found that only one in four of them had any previous psychiatric history. Granted, circumstances change in 15 years, but the general consensus among psychologists and psychiatrists is that the mentally ill aren’t the primary causes of mass shootings.

Politicians on the right need to heed these data and let expert analysis influence their policies instead of doing nothing or praying, which is another form of doing nothing. Obstructing legislation like what we saw in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting leaves no room for trials in change. Clearly, the current protocols we have are not working, and I’m not entirely sure how many shootings it will take for opponents of gun control to realize this.

We’re not going to pray terroristic gun violence away, unless God is sadistic and wants us to keep at it for a while until he decides to intervene. Sounds like a great plan.


Stephen Friedland is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at stephen.friedland@uconn.edu.