Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

Helton: Gunshots ring out, GOP is silent

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Congress doesn’t have to be anti-gun to do something about mass shootings.

By Elijah Helton

elijah-helton@uiowa.edu

With almost any debate, it’s possible to see both sides. Whether it’s capitalism, free speech, or pizza toppings, there’s always room for mature conversation, but one side refuses to talk about a certain issue.

In the aftermath of mass shootings such as the recent tragedies in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, both political parties rush to their corners and shout the same rhetoric. The Republican Party controls both houses of Congress and the presidency, so it’s up to the GOP to bring about any change on any issue.

Guns can be an extremely sensitive topic for advocates and detractors alike. So let me clarify, I am not advocating for a blanket gun ban, and I am not saying that the firearms of law-abiding citizens should be taken away. Rather, all I am saying is that we can no longer do nothing. The primary problem is that there’s no movement to seriously consider any real gun reform on the federal level.

There are two arguments used by the GOP to back up its claim that little or nothing (usually nothing) needs to be done about guns, despite there being more mass shootings in 2016 than days in 2016.

After the gun smoke clears, one of the first things members of the Republican Party will say is that shootings aren’t a gun problem. It’s a strange position to take. If I said, “The toppings we order on our pizza isn’t a pizza problem,” you’d think I was crazy. However, the conventional conservative wisdom says the true root cause of gun violence is actually unaddressed mental-health issues.

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President Trump supported this argument on Monday when addressing the Sutherland Springs shooting.

“We have a lot of mental-health problems in our country, as do other countries,” Trump said. “But this isn’t a guns situation … this is a mental-health problem at the highest level.”

But the president doesn’t seem to believe his own statement; he signed a bill in February that effectively kept up to 75,000 mentally ill citizens unrecorded by government databases, as reported by NBC. In addition, according to the president’s own Department of Health and Human Services, “only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.”

To be sure, this isn’t just a lone Republican’s untenable position. Many supporters of guns like to use the cliché “thoughts and prayers.”

Speaker Paul Ryan responded to criticism of “thoughts and prayers” during a Tuesday interview on the Fox News show “The Ingraham Angle”:

“The right thing to do is to pray in moments like this, because you know what? Prayer works.”

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As a fellow Christian, I take prayer seriously. Ryan is commendable for suggesting hope instead of fear in reaction to violence. But thoughts and prayers are not enough. That’s not my opinion, it’s God’s. The Bible says in James 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Action is required to solve problems, and the Republican Party has proven its non-interest in “having works.”

In fact, no gun-control bill has been passed on the national level since 2013, while almost countless restriction measures have been shot down by pro-gun lawmakers.

Perhaps Trump was right; it’s not a gun problem. Let’s be clear, it’s a Republican problem. Mass shootings will continue to engulf the United States until Congress decides to respond. Inactive members of the GOP must either be voted out of office or miraculously change their minds. Or maybe they should just pray hard enough for the guns to silence themselves.

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