Another week in the United States, another mass shooting. This is a public health crisis, making it long overdue that we start legislating from facts — not the bible.
This past week, my husband, Nick, and I were in Texas. He had arrived in Dallas last Monday for a work trip, and I joined him later in the week. We went to the spot where President Kennedy was assassinated. We also visited the Sixth Floor Museum, the former Texas School Book Depository building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired at the president.
While we were in Texas, I received a text from my mother alerting me about a shooting near Dallas. However, it wasn’t until the following day, en route to the airport, that we learned more about the eight killed and seven wounded at the Texas outlet mall on Saturday. Nick gasped loudly, “Which mall was this?” I replied that the news reported it to be Allen Premium Outlets. Shocked, he said that he had been at that exact same mall earlier in the week to buy gifts for Mother’s Day. Nick and I were both silent; he was particularly startled that the place he had gone to so casually a few days ago was now the site of a mass murder. As we pulled into the airport car rental lot, I read a quote from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who described the shooting as “this unspeakable tragedy.” Nick remarked, “You can’t keep calling it a ‘tragedy’ if you never do anything about it.”
But, sadly, this is what is expected of us: Be sorrowful for a moment, shrug our shoulders, say “Well that’s life in America” and carry on. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to live like that. However, that’s what Christian nationalist legislators expect from us. After all, it was only three hours after the shooting that U.S. Rep. Keith Self went on CNN and scolded those who wanted sensible gun laws, stating, “Those are people that don’t believe in an almighty God who is absolutely in control of our lives. … I’m a Christian. I believe that he is.” Self continued that attempts to raise the age to buy assault-style rifles was a “knee-jerk reaction that does not stop criminals.”
He’s not alone in this backward ideology. While President Biden pleaded that Congress pass sensible gun bills, Sen. Ted Cruz said that he and his wife were praying for the families and offered no realistic solutions. What else can we expect from a man who has received more than $442,000 from organizations that support making guns as accessible as possible. Cruz, Self and Abbott have blood on their hands because they refuse to take reasonable steps toward curbing gun violence.
To be clear, this is not a “Texas problem.” This is a U.S. problem. After all, the United States has among the highest number of gun-related deaths per capita in the world, and guns are the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens. This crisis is made even worse due to Christian extremism. For example, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, has said that the Second Amendment is not a right “bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.” Others quote scripture saying that Jesus permits deadly force in the Book of Luke: “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” Sometimes guns are glorified because of Islamophobia, such as by Jerry Falwell Jr., the then-president of Liberty University who stated in 2015, “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in.”
It’s been over 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which claimed 26 victims, the majority of them 6 and 7 years old. Since then we have had countless more preventable shootings. But legislators who cling to their bibles and guns lie to us and tell us that nothing can be done.
Meanwhile, at the Sixth Floor Museum, I learned how Secret Service funding was expanded after the JFK assassination to protect presidents and their families even after their time in the White House. Additionally, it became a federal crime to kill or attempt to hurt the president and presidential cars became heavily armored.
It strikes me that common-sense solutions were rightly implemented after the tragedy of JFK’s killing, and yet we are told that such solutions are not possible for our children, teachers and everyday citizens in the United States.
I think about how many people live in fear on a daily basis. My sister told me how she is afraid every day when she drops her children off at school that something bad will happen. I know of other people who have insisted on homeschooling their children because the fear is too great.
We are not meant to live like this. More than 70 percent of Americans want sensible gun laws, including 80 percent of white evangelicals who also want stricter gun laws. Gun control is not controversial. Rather, we are held back by a very small but powerful group of legislators who are funded by special interests and Christian extremists.
I’m done with “thoughts and prayers,” and I know you are, too. Let’s enact sensible gun laws now.