In the wake of Orlando, save your prayers

Save your prayers.

I woke up today to news of another mass shooting in America. For one moment, I tore down the wall around my heart. I imagined being there. The screams of the injured and dying. Some fraction of the pain echoing across country playing through me as well. And as I looked down at my hands, I saw they were covered in blood. Because I have sat out of this war for too long. I have ignored the issue of gun violence outside of Twitter sprees surrounding national tragedies. I have furiously written articles so I can heroically bask in the admiration of my peers, and let lives be extinguished and families be destroyed.

Save your prayers.

What will happen next is sickening in its routine. It’s cold, practiced steps. Politicians will pray for the victims, and cry out for meaningful mental health reform. As millions of Americans like me who have struggled our whole lives with mental illness stand stupefied at the ignorance.

Some upstart politician, young and stupid enough to believe in democracy, will draft a law that might actually curb gun violence. But it will be neutered by amendments and destroyed on the floor. And the NRA will crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate their victory.

Meanwhile, terrified Americans will see their government do literally nothing in the face of tragedy. And, looking to protect their families, will purchase firearms for self-defense. Consumption goes up, the S&P stays in the green, and the NRA gets to pop another bottle. Two wins for them, while 50 bodies slowly stiffen in a morgue in Orlando.

The notion that this violence is the cost of freedom is disgusting. The Constitution once enshrined the practice of owning people as the law of the land. It is not perfect, and never was. We are obligated to change it when it fails, and it most certainly is failing. The idea that our Founding Fathers could predict a weapon that would allow one man to slay 50 is laughable. The idea that a bunch of weekend-warrior dads with AR-15’s could somehow stop a military coup or other “government tyranny” is equally laughable. We have literally drone-struck weddings for less.

The argument that banning guns won’t work is equally pathetic. This is not Prohibition. I cannot distill a weapon of death in my backyard with a quick online tutorial. These are sophisticated instruments of destruction that very wealthy, successful companies manufacture. And this is why they keep selling them.

If you honestly believe you need a gun in your home to feel safe, you should be furious with your government. You should be calling your legislator every day for allowing the creation of a state in which you have to pack heat to feel protected. This is the duty of your police and criminal justice system. Every time someone suggests they need a semi-automatic weapon to defend their family, I have to wonder how little faith they place in our police force. If they really cannot protect you, why don’t you demand them to step up?

Of course, I acknowledge that my experiences are predominantly with privileged, white Americans. In poorer parts of the country, where gangs and ghettos are used to subjugate and undermine minority communities, the idea of holding a gun for self-defense makes considerably more sense. But here we see the State responds with horrifying violence against black teens as angry white men openly carry assault rifles into their local Chile’s.

So save your prayers, unless you pray for the strength to stand up against this madness.

This does not have to be our reality. Nowhere else in the developed world do people live in fear like we do. Fear that today is the day our coworker or classmate brings a payload and starts hunting us. All of our guns have not made us any safer, and it’s time we acknowledge that real action is needed.

For starters, call your representatives and demand that they lift the ban on using federal funds to study gun violence as a public health issue. It has killed far more people than terrorists or drugs, and it’s time we treat it just as seriously. Once we fully understand the issue, we can create scientifically-backed policies to prevent this violence.

The pain and violence of Orlando, Aurora, Sandy Hook and others is not the price we pay to live in a free state. Our friends and allies who have cut off public access to guns are not demons bent on the destruction of personal liberty. This doesn’t have to happen again.

But it will. Unless people like you and I stand up and do something about it.

Save your prayers and pick up the phone.