Alan Vervaeke - Shove your thoughts & prayers

  • Published in Columns

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is described as four or more individuals being shot or killed in the same general time and location. The FBI defines a "mass killing" as the killing of three or more people in a public place, but the federal agency also defines a "mass murderer" as someone who has killed four or more people in the same location.

According to those definitions, there have been 30 mass shootings already during 2018. There have been five school shootings this year, as well. There have been 273 school shootings since Sandy Hook, taking the lives of 400 Americans. The numbers of children killed or injured by gun violence have steadily increased since Sandy Hook. In 2014, 609 children under the age of 12 and 2,330 teens were killed or injured from gun violence. In 2015 those numbers were 696 and 2,696. In 2016 they were 673 and 3,132. Finally, in 2017 the numbers were up to 732 and 3,234. Over 14,000 children – CHILDREN – killed or injured by gun violence in four years plus another 416 already this year. Seven dead kids per day on average.

Comparatively, 2,977 people died on 9/11. Congress created the TSA in 69 days as a response. If you go to the airport, security is overwhelming. We get patted, searched, probed, questioned, and occasionally stripped. Belts come off, shoes come off, you cannot have a full bottle of shampoo in a carry-on bag, and you can only carry on overpriced food and water that you buy in the airport.

Conversely (or perversely), in the 1,900 days since Sandy Hook there have been ZERO changes to federal gun regulations. In fact, our president rolled some back to allow people with a history of mental illness to own guns. His Interior secretary now allows greater numbers of guns and ammunition types in national parks and on federal lands. The Attorney General narrowed the definition of “fugitive from justice” and caused the immediate removal of tens of thousands of names from the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System — the system used to determine whether someone is prohibited under federal law from purchasing a gun. Most recently, the House of Representatives passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people who have a concealed carry permit from one state to use it in all other states.

But ... WHERE IS OUR SOUL? After all the shootings of the past year, we’ve heard lots and LOTS of “thoughts and prayers” via Twitter and Facebook and the White House Briefing Room. After the Las Vegas Massacre, President Trump tweeted “warmest condolences and sympathies,” After the church shooting in Texas, the president tweeted “May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.” Yesterday, he tweeted “Prayers and condolences” to the parents in Parkland, Florida after yet another shooting. "Thoughts and prayers" is apparently GOP code for "Sorry your spouse/kid/friend is dead but I won't do a damned thing about guns." Screw your platitudes. I’m done.

I won’t go into all of the adults who have died from gun violence since 2014 — it’s just an obscene number and most of you simply don’t care. I won’t explain how women are more likely to die in a weaponized household. You make up stories about why God himself ordained the Second Amendment just so you can cradle them to your bosom at night; because you must “live free or die” and your guns provide a means to do both. People with many guns in their home are far more likely to suffer a deadly shooting in their home. That is a statistical fact. If you own a gun, you are 33 percent more likely to have a shooting in your home. If you have children in that home, they are more likely to be the victim. Again — that is statistical FACT. I hope it isn’t your child.

But really — why the hell should I care about your kids IF YOU DON’T? Thirty thousand Americans will die from bullets this year. Fourteen kids in Florida? So what? They're just a minor statistic in that total. So what? If the nation doesn't care about 30,000, why would it care about 14? Why should I? Does that make me a lousy person?

It certainly does. That attitude is just about as crappy and selfish and shortsighted as it gets. But that's AMERICA. That’s America as a nation. Right there. Every single day, more dead kids. Every day, more gun violence. We have more guns deaths in this country than some war zones. And every day, not a single thing is done about it. That's America. When it comes to gun violence, America is crappy. Selfish. We’re no better than Somali warlords. And we’re shortsighted. We are a nation of sniveling cowards who won't do what needs to be done to save our KIDS. “Take them, but spare me (and my gun.)”

So, if not giving a damn about the deaths of 14 MORE kids makes ME a lousy person, then not giving a damn as a nation makes AMERICA a lousy damned country indeed. Third world quality. Afghanistan. Iran. Somalia.

If you want to hold ME accountable for caring, then you have to hold America accountable, too. If you don't like that; if you find that rude and crass and uncaring and unpatriotic and cowardly, then do something about it. As a nation.

Or just shut up. I don't want to hear your “thoughts and prayers.” Shove your prayers. Prayers are worthless. If you're honest with yourself, you know it. I know it. Trump knows it. Every politician knows it. Worthless. It sounds nice, but does NOTHING for the victims. If prayer worked, we wouldn't be in this situation. But our government isn't paid to PRAY, and I'm sick and tired of hearing about more dead kids killed by damned guns.

So do something. Or shut up. But stop offering useless prayers.

Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.