‘Thoughts and Prayers’ Do Stop Mass Shootings

In 1968, LBJ’s National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence claimed in its report that “half of the nation’s 60 million households possess at least one gun, and the number of guns owned by private citizens is rising rapidly.”

By Daniel Greenfield – May 11, 2023

The Gun Control Act of 1968, a supposed response to the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK by, respectively, a Communist, a ‘Palestinian’ terrorist and a white racist, failed to head off a decade of leftist political violence during the 1970s.

Next year, in 1969, black nationalists took over a high school and college campus in Greensboro, North Carolina and opened fire on police officers and the National Guard in what became an extensive armed siege and the largest battle fought on a U.S. college campus.

Gun control was already working wonders.

By 1972, an estimated 43% of American households owned firearms. The only two mass shootings that year were by an angry unemployed security guard and Mark Essex

Essex, a black nationalist terrorist, opened fire on New Year’s Eve in New Orleans killing, among others, a honeymooning couple. Betty Steagall was shot in the back of her head while embracing her murdered husband. Essex left a Black Liberation flag lying near the corpses of the doctor and his wife. Black nationalists and leftists still view him as a hero.

Today, 45% of American households own a gun. The number of mass shootings is far greater than was the case in the 1960s and 1970s. Not only have the various gun control measures failed to stop shootings, the overall number of shootings and the otherwise unusual phenomenon of individual mass shootings have increased to a staggering degree.

The issue is not, as Democrats, leftists and their media insist, “gun culture”. America had far more of a gun culture in the 1950s than it does today. A visceral hatred of gun ownership pervades the entertainment industry even as it glorifies all sorts of physical violence. Cultural elites decry the existence of firearms as a senseless evil and dream of a world without them.

And thus far there’s been a record number of mass shootings in 2023.

The perpetrators of these mass shootings are often politically inconvenient. Even beyond the urban minority gangs responsible for the vast majority of shooting deaths so far this year there have been transgender mass shooters like Audrey Hale, illegal alien mass shooters like Francisco Oropeza, and black mass shooters like Anthony Dwayne McRae, who opened fire at Michigan State University in a story that would have otherwise dominated the headlines.

Media coverage of mass shootings instantly seizes on the similarity of the weapon to an AR-15 before cutting to an interview with one of a legion of gun control advocates demanding that the government do what it had been trying to do since the 1930s with no success whatsoever.

But why should a mere century of failure discredit a leftist policy when socialism is still a fad?

Conservative religious people offer thoughts and prayers in the wake of a shooting because they understand that life is not just a set of policies but a spiritual struggle. The secular frame tends to dumb this down to policy points like “mental illness”, but call it what you will, there is no denying the reality that people don’t kill because guns exist, guns exist because people kill.

A mass shooting doesn’t begin in a gun store, but inside the heart, the mind and the soul.

Mass shootings became much more frequent because our culture lost the moral guardrails that defined acceptable and unacceptable forms of violence. Unsocialized teenage boys, angry loners with a grudge against everyone, crazies, racists and radicals going down their very own online rabbit holes stopped being an aberration a long time ago: they’re becoming the norm.

America’s violence is not a matter of ‘gun culture’, but of a broken society whose symptoms, suicides, overdoses, random crime, political extremism, despair, and free-floating rage, are all around us. Short tempers lead to confrontations and then violence in a society where many people mistrust others and view them as a threat. Some of this is lubricated by the bigotry incubated by the Left in the form of critical race theory and wokeness, but others are a secondary effect of a society where people no longer have any confidence in the future, and no faith in much of anything, including country, religion, family or even human decency.

‘Thoughts and prayers’ address these root causes far better than gun control. The Democrat solution of blaming inanimate objects and the Republican solution of blaming mental illness are both shortsighted. The latter leads to battles over ‘red flag laws’ and more of the medical interventions whose drug protocols in some cases seem to trigger outbursts of violence.

There are people with genuine mental problems that require medical treatment, but millions of people are being treated with medications for conditions that essentially boil down to generalized unhappiness, a lack of fulfillment, a seeming inability to enjoy life and no sense of purpose. These are not individual medical problems, they’re the ills of a society that has lost its reason to exist and invents new forms of madness, like the transgender craze, to compensate.

Call it a spiritual problem, a crisis of purpose, a national ennui, but from whatever angle, religious or secular, national or cultural, familial and interpersonal, policy is not an answer.

Conventional law enforcement is a useful tool against terrorists and gangs, against repeat criminal offenders, but is largely useless against a man with no criminal record who decides to open fire in a mall or ram his car through a public street. Passing more laws does little good against someone who is willing to end his life and those of others in a bloody ruin. Walk into a federal government building and you will see signs warning potential offenders that killing federal employees will lead to a stiff sentence. City buses have signs cautioning about the heightened penalties for attacking bus drivers. Does any of this actually work?

After Deion Patterson shot up an Atlanta hospital facility, killing one woman and wounding four others, a federal bill is pending to boost penalties for those who attack medical staffers.

Will that stop the next Deion Patterson?

‘Thoughts and prayers’ appear impotent to progressives, but their preferred policies, passing pointless laws, are more so. They’re also ‘thoughts and prayers’, not directed to any higher power above this world, but to the governments in whose power they place their absolute trust.

55 years after LBJ’s gun control commission argued that, “the heart of any effective national firearms policy for the United States must be to reduce the availability of the firearm that contributes the most to violence”, these efforts have failed to achieve anything, not because of the NRA or “gun culture”, but because the issue is people, not the tools that they use.

The Democrat obsession with tools was typical of a materialistic party already losing its religion and incapable of grappling with the deeper crisis of the national soul. Republicans struggle to articulate their conviction that gun violence is an internal, not an external crisis, but as the party loses its moral sensibilities, it becomes unable to speak in moral terms and it has never been particularly good at speaking in policy terms. And so the same repetitive drama plays out.

As a society, we could do with more ‘thoughts and prayers’, not just after a school, a mall or a bus station is shot up, but on a constant daily basis. Moral people, religious or secular, take stock of themselves, question their behavior and seek to become better than they are today. They don’t melt into puddles of selfish self-pity, nurture endless grudges, become convinced that everyone is out to get them, dehumanize those around them or fantasize about damaging the world so hard that it finally notices that they exist. These are moral skills of humility that parents, teachers, religious and political leaders cultivate in the members of a healthy society.

The average mass shooter and, for that matter, career criminal, lacks any of them and is infested with the self-pity, resentment, hatred and grandiosity that he bloodily acts out.

Unlike an armed gun owner or police officer in the right time and place, gun control won’t save any lives, but what is especially misguided about gun control is that its proponents misrepresent it as a solution to ‘root causes’ when it mistakes an object for a root cause of human behavior.

No government policy is a substitute for a functioning society. In pursuit of its paradise, the Left has smashed our society and continues to hammer away at it every day. And then it occasionally looks up from the carnage to notice the mass shootings, the overdoses, the suicides, the battles in the streets and blames the destruction on its political opponents.

‘Thoughts and prayers’ are a way back to a healthier society. They are the road to a reckoning and a return to healthy families and communities, to an individual sense of purpose and to the conviction, once so common among Americans, that the world is not a meaningless place.

No past decade or a century was free of crime and violence, but we had the tools to resist it and to overcome it. Those tools are mostly gone. All we have is a bipartisan police state and an extended argument over where to direct it and whom to criminalize to fix our crises.

‘Thoughts and prayers’ are humbling. They remind us of our limitations and our strengths. They tell us what political extremists resist, but that great men and women have always understood, which is that our greatest power to change others comes from changing ourselves.

Gun control doesn’t work. Self-control does. And it begins with thoughts and prayers.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center’s Front Page Magazine.

Daniel Greenfield