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Opinion | Move along. There’s nothing to read here

Thoughts and prayers mean nothing. The evidence is there for all to see.


The question isn’t unusual after a big event. I’ll get an email from a friend or reader: “So, what are you going to say about that?”

This time, the reference was to another school shooting, this time in Texas, where 19 young school children and two of their teachers were murdered in a classroom. This came less than two weeks after another mass shooting, where mostly senior citizens were gunned down, in a New York grocery store. Lots of shootings in between the two events, too.

Shootings every day where one or two people are killed, a few wounded. Shootings that are drug fueled or passion fueled or just fueled by meanness.

As if daily shootings aren’t newsworthy enough – they aren’t by the way, not anymore – we get mass shootings where a dozen or more are murdered.

“What are you going to say?”

What can anybody say? We’ve said it. There’s nothing new to say. We’ve said it for decades now, even as mass shootings become more frequent.

More common? Sadly, yes.

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Too common. One such shooting is more than enough. Hundreds – literally hundreds of shootings every day – tell us something is wrong with us. With our country. With our priorities.

With all of our minds.

“Thoughts and prayers,” they say. Thoughts and prayers?

They follow every shooting. Thoughts and prayers to the families. Thoughts and prayers to the police officers who must try to intervene and make sense of such scenes.

Thoughts and prayers mean nothing.

The evidence is there for all to see.

We have a mental illness problem, they say. Every country in the world has people who are mentally ill. Only in the United States, though, do our “mentally ill” murder so many.

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After thoughts and prayers, we further marginalize the mentally ill. We dump all persons with mental illnesses into that same basket, and who knows when they will strike again. They say.

Except those damn facts: Mentally ill persons don’t kill at any higher rate than the people who aren’t “mentally ill.” Indeed, untreated mentally ill persons are “16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement,” says a study by the Treatment Advocacy Center based in Arlington, Va.

No, there’s more than mental illness going on, but don’t forget the thoughts and prayers, y’all.

There is one common denominator in all this killing: Easy access to guns. Easy access to particular guns and rifles designed to kill a lot of people in a hurry. Military-style weapons no civilian should have. We sell them just about everywhere, too. In Texas, a disturbed teenager can buy one or two for himself a few days after his 18th birthday. He can enter a school full of children, barricade himself in a classroom, and kill, kill, kill. Even before the police arrive. In some cases, perhaps like the most recent, he can keep killing even after the police arrive.

There’s nothing new here.

I don’t know how many stories, perspectives, and tired ideas I’ve read over the past week.

Nothing new there, either. Most of the stories are versions that have been written and rewritten, read and reread many timesbefore. After Sandy Hook or Parkland or Uvalde. Stories going back to Columbine and before. Stories that’ll be written again next week or next month or next year. They’re written after a church shooting in Charleston or a concert shooting in Las Vegas. We read them after a nightclub shooting in Orlando and following a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

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The network and TV station cameras are there in the first few hours and days. And then they’re gone. Home, maybe. Probably to the next shooting.

And those who could significantly do something about this patently United States scourge – our political leaders – offer only thoughts and prayers, then blame the “mentally ill.”

Yet, there it is. Or, yet, there THEY are. Millions of guns, and not just guns for home defense or for taking down a duck or deer. Guns designed only to kill people. Often children, our most defenseless humans, at what should be the safest place they can be: their school.

Even as police officers, wearing re-enforced armor and carrying those mean, human-killing weapons, too, wait outside a classroom while 10-year-olds are being shot in their faces.

The good guys with guns, right out there in the hall, listening to children die.

Congress absolutely won’t act, and voters won’t send leaders there who will. Few state legislatures step forward.

But, you know, thoughts and prayers.

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If you read this far, I apologize. I have nothing new to say. Indeed, there is nothing new to be said, for it’s all been said before. For years now. For decades.

We have nothing but profound sadness and tears. Just as we’ve had before. Just as we will again.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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