As the nation mourns the abhorrent violence in Las Vegas, there are more questions than answers when it comes to figuring out what drove this psychopath to murder 59 people, and put 527 more in the hospital. As is often the case, relatives and neighbors are dumbfounded when something occurs, offering little in terms of background as to what may have driven an individual (I refuse to use the names of these psychos) to go on such a murderous rampage. Inevitably, the topic of gun control always comes up following any shooting and the politics often become instantly partisan and highly emotional in terms of finding solutions to the problem. It gets asked and asked and asked how this could be prevented, but there aren’t really any real answers or solutions, because it’s near impossible to prevent a psycho bent on mass destruction.
There are two schools of reaction to tragedies like this. The “thoughts and prayers” reaction, and the “do something” reaction. We see it play out on social media, and it happened all day long yesterday.
Here are some examples of the “thoughts and prayers” reaction from various leaders:
Keeping #LasVegas in our thoughts this morning after the horrific news. If you're trying to locate missing loved ones, call 1-866-535-5654
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) October 2, 2017
Cindy & I are praying for the victims of the terrible #LasVegasShooting & their families. We appreciate the bravery of all first responders.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) October 2, 2017
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) October 2, 2017
My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2017
And then, naturally, some people are angry, and demand action. The typical “action” item is gun control. Here are some examples:
Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 2, 2017
Thoughts & prayers are NOT enough. Not when more moms & dads will bury kids this week, & more sons & daughters will grow up without parents.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 2, 2017
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) October 2, 2017
Let's once again ban assault weapons. These are weapons of war and should be used in combat, not in our communities.
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) October 2, 2017
Obviously you can see the difference cuts a partisan line, with Democrats demanding action on gun control and attacking the National Rifle Association, and Republicans calling for “thoughts and prayers” to aide the victims and help the mourning. In the grand scheme, the two reactions stem from the same place, a desire to help our fellow man and make something positive out of the horrific evil we witnessed on Sunday night.
Democrats are often attacked for “politicizing” the tragedy, and Republicans are often attacked for not expressing the outrage in terms of a demand for action. Here are two opposing opinion pieces on the matter.
In the Washington Post, Monica Hesse writes that the time to politicize a tragedy is right now, because this is the time when emotions are high, events are recent, and Americans will demand action:
Don’t politicize this. What does it mean? Let us be careful with our language, at least, in this time when there is nothing else we can control. Does it mean, don’t call for an assault weapons ban? Don’t bother to figure out who the shooter was or what demented worldview he subscribed to? Don’t try to talk about why there are dead people, while those people’s bodies are still waiting to be claimed by relatives who thought their loved ones were attending a music festival but instead ended up in a massacre?
When else are we supposed to talk about it? By the time these funerals are done, there may well be more funerals resulting from more mass shootings. By the time those mass shootings happen, we might not even hear about them. It used to be news when eight, nine, a dozen Americans were shot as they were shopping in a grocery store, going to school, going to work, seeing a Batman movie in a theater in Aurora, Colo.
The mass shooting body count is so high now, so breathtakingly high, with exponential increases from Aurora to Newtown to Orlando to Vegas. A dozen, 13, 15 dead barely registers as news now.
As a counter to this view, Howard Kurtz wrote, at Fox News, that gun control is a legitimate political topic, but asked for politicians to wait until we finalized a body count before running in front of the camera to score political points:
I also said that with Hillary Clinton and other Democrats issuing messages about gun control, it was too bad they couldn’t wait one day as the country absorbs the grief of a mass murder in which the death toll wasn’t even final.
This was said out of sadness, but I got savaged online by people who think this is exactly when we should be debating gun control, hours after a brutal massacre.
Sensible gun control, I made clear, is a legitimate issue. All I said was that out of sensitivity toward the mourning families and a stunned country, waiting until the next morning before scoring political points seemed like a decent interval.
I have been consistent over the years in saying both the left and right should not instantaneously politicize these tragedies. Whether it’s Columbine or Virginia Tech or Aurora or Sandy Hook or Tucson or Washington Navy Yard or San Bernardino or Orlando or a Charleston church–or a Virginia baseball field where Steve Scalise nearly died but managed to return to Congress last week–there’s a knee-jerk tendency to blame the actions and rhetoric of the other ideological side.
As human beings, we react to things. Sometimes we can’t control the way we react. Sometimes we react in pure emotion. Usually we’re all reacting to a tragedy like this with the intention of trying to prevent this in the future and rally behind our fellow citizens. Don’t get angry at your fellow citizens because they don’t react the way you want them to react. The only way forward is to hash this out as a society without demonizing each other.
Easier said than done, I know.