Jake Tapper: What is the most important thing to do to help?
Gov. Rick Scott: I think the most important thing to do is pray.
I saw this on TV the morning we all woke up to news of yet another hell on Earth, this time at a gay club called Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
And I felt—frustrated. And angry. And heartbroken with the knowledge that even though 49 of our LGBT brothers and sisters had died in a sickening crime of hate and terrorism, there was more than a good chance that nothing at all would change.
I have nothing against “thoughts and prayers.” I have nothing against taking time to absorb the immensity of the tragedy and mourn the dead.
What I object to is the hypocrisy in accusing people who call for action as somehow disrespecting the dead. The real hypocrisy, in my opinion, is to call for a “moment of silence,” – and then to stretch that moment of silence into another, and another, and another-- until that’s all there is.
I am all for prayer. But not if that’s all we have to give.
Because, let’s see:
We prayed after Sandy Hook, where 20 first graders and six adults were massacred in their school.
Then did nothing.
Let me repeat. 20 little children were murdered. And Congress did nothing.
We prayed after San Bernardino, where 14 county employees celebrating a holiday were gunned down.
Then did nothing.
We prayed after a man intent on murder went on a killing spree in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.
Then did nothing.
We pray after every mass-murdering rampage. And then do nothing.
So apologies to those who think I am politicizing the deaths of 49 innocent people, but I submit to you that the there is no better time to call for action than after yet another bloodbath.
So—pray. And after you pray, how about:
*Banning the AR-15 and similar semi-automatic assault rifles (Sig Sauer MCX) used in Orlando, Sandy Hook, Aurora and San Bernardino. It’s a weapon that was made for war, but modified slightly so gun manufacturers could sell it to civilians. It’s made for one thing only—to kill people. A lot of people. Very fast. And it has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters.
*How about preventing people on the terror watch list from buying guns? Republicans voted that down just a few weeks ago, after the San Bernardino tragedy. Why? Does it make sense to you that a person deemed potentially too lethal to fly can go to a gun store or a gun show and purchase a weapon?
*How about allocating money for researchers to track and study gun violence in America so we can figure out better ways to address it?
Funding for research dried up in the 1990s, when Congress passed the Dickey amendment restricting the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence and its effects on public health.
President Obama overturned that amendment via executive order two years ago, but Republicans in Congress have continued to block funding.
Here’s an interesting fact—the man whose name is on the amendment now regrets it. Former Congressman Jay Dickey of Arkansas said his intent was to prevent the government from using federal dollars to advocate for gun control. He never intended for all gun research to stop, but that’s what happened.
In an interview last year on National Public Radio, Dickey acknowledged the lack of information has prevented the nation from crafting sound gun safety policy. He used highway safety research as an example of federal research dollars saving lives.
“And the thing that really brought this to my mind,” said Dickey, “was watching as the little barricades were set up between the interstate to stop head-on collisions. The highway industry spent money in their scientific research to figure out what could be done, assuming that they were going to allow cars to continue to be on our highways. Enormous reduction of head-on collisions has been caused just by that little 2-and-a-half, 3-foot fence. We could do the same in the gun industry.”
He went on to say he hoped his former GOP colleagues and the NRA would change their minds on gun research.
“I think the status quo is not acceptable. I think the NRA needs to be approached on that and said, do you want it to stay like it is? And I don't think they really do, but they think that they're in quicksand, and they don't know how to move.”
So pray. Or pay your respects in whatever manner you choose.
But then do something else.
Break the NRA's stranglehold on our lawmakers. It’s what the majority of Americans want.
It’s what we need.