Eric Frazier

Victims of gun violence deserve prayer, but also gun control reforms

By Eric Frazier

A group of local church members pray for residents who live in the San Bernardino, Calif., neighborhood where Wednesday’s police shootout with suspects took place.
A group of local church members pray for residents who live in the San Bernardino, Calif., neighborhood where Wednesday’s police shootout with suspects took place. AP

You’d think mass shootings and terrorist attacks gave us enough to argue about. But we’ve added prayer and religion to the fight club, too.

The New York Daily News’ cover story on the mass shooting in California criticized Republican leaders’ offers of “thoughts and prayers” for the victims. The headline blared: “God Isn’t Fixing This”.

A smaller one added: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”

Progressives loved it. But “unhinged” was how the conservative news site Breitbart.com described it in a tweet.

The New York Post’s cover zigged where the Daily News’ cover zagged. “Muslim Killers” was its headline.

Jibril Hough, an outspoken Charlotte Muslim, declared on Facebook that if innocent Muslims get attacked because of the headline, the Post’s leaders will “have blood on their hands.”

That’s what the body politic has come to today. Folks on the right can’t believe anyone would be crazy enough to condemn something as wholesome as prayer. Folks on the left can’t believe anyone would be crazy enough to define all Muslims by the acts of a twisted few.

We know what comes next. Conservative Christians will say Muslim-Americans aren’t doing enough to root out extremists. Muslim assurances to the contrary will be met with skepticism.

If the suspects in this case were radicalized Muslims, as police suggest, there’s still work for the Christian right to do. Who can the suspects thank for their easy access to once-banned semi-automatic rifles? The NRA and its many conservative, often Christian, supporters.

The NRA’s wide-open stance on gun access is money-driven and spiritually indefensible, as commentator David Kennedy argued in a 2013 article for Christianpost.com, an evangelical news website.

“I own guns and believe there is nothing wrong with using them for sport or self-defense,” he wrote. “I draw the line, however, with civilians owning high-capacity guns and magazines designed and manufactured for mass-killings of humans.”

Our society is choking on guns. Absolutist Second Amendment appeals ring more hollow with each gun-related death.

Still, it’s wrong to mock the efficacy of prayer, an essential element of all the great religions, not just Christianity. Nor should we insult law-abiding Muslims by suggesting they should answer for the actions of criminals.

Keep praying, people of all faiths. And after you finish your prayers, get up, call your state and federal lawmakers, and demand sensible gun control legislation.

Eric: 704-358-5145; efrazier@charlotteobserver.com.

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