More thoughts and prayers

Feeling angry and disgusted in the wake of yet another school shooting? You are not alone. It’s not just that eight students and two teachers were killed and 10 others wounded at Santa Fe High School in Texas on Friday, a mere two months after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 dead (although that was sickening enough). It’s that we’re now subject to a familiar hypocrisy, those insincere expressions of sorrow and concern that have become so common there’s a shorthand for them — “thoughts and prayers.” When politicians say that, we know by now what they mean: “So sad, but don’t think you’re going to change firearms policies in this country. That would upset the NRA.”

The students of Douglas denounced that hypocrisy and continue to do so. Now, they appear to have a fellow traveler: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who within hours of the Texas attack was warning his friends on Facebook not to post any claims that “guns aren’t the problem” or similar claptrap. “I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom,” he wrote, “and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue.”

To which millions of Americans can only say, “Amen.” Amen to the anger. Amen to the frustration. Amen to the repudiation of those who hold the continued lax regulation of guns so far above and beyond the value of human lives. Chief Acevedo wants voters to kick such people out of office. He gets it. He cares. He has his priorities in order. And he’s not suffering fools and con artists gladly.

Now contrast that with some of what the National Rifle Association cronies have said in their haste to derail the conversation over how best to keep society’s most deadly weapons out of the hands of murderous teens who lack the emotional maturity to handle them responsibly. The list must surely begin with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who looks at 22 school shootings in 2018 and doesn’t see a too-easy availability of guns but a society with too many violent video games and movies, unarmed teachers, not enough religion in schools and legal abortion. Society “has lost empathy for their victims,” he observed on ABCNews “This Week.”

Oh, there’s definitely a lack of empathy apparent here. When so many students are killed and politicians like Mr. Patrick refuse to even consider denying guns to people on the “no fly” terrorism watch list or to require every gun sale to involve a criminal background search, there’s something definitely missing from that person’s soul. Was the 17-year-old shooter with his “born to kill” T-shirt posted on social media reacting to a woman’s right to choose? Because women have that right to one extent or another in about 96 percent of countries, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, and the vast majority don’t seem to be suffering school shootings. Meanwhile, most of those that have experienced similar tragedies, like Australia, have chosen to restrict gun ownership and have reaped the rewards of that.

Mr. Patrick also wants schools to have fewer doors. That’s right. He resides in a state that has just suffered a horrible shooting, and he’s focused on exit plans. Whatever help upgraded school security might offer — and we are certainly not opposed to reasonable measures — it’s just crazy to talk about “hardening” schools like they were top-secret military bases while ignoring the fundamental problem of guns getting into the hands of people who can’t be trusted with them. Instead of analyzing “fire fight” scenarios in the high school hallway, why aren’t we finding ways to keep kids, criminals, those with severe mental illnesses and even potential terrorists from being armed with shotguns, .38-caliber revolvers or, as was the case in Florida, an AR-15 tactical rifle? Or are we going to look to the NRA’s Oliver North, the guy who illegally sold arms to Iran to support Nicaraguan rebels, for moral guidance as he’s shifting the blame to Ritalin and violent video games?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he wants to convene a school shooting roundtable to discuss what happened with all “stakeholders” and prevent such massacres from happening again. Might that conversation at least start with tougher laws requiring gun owners — in this case, the shooter’s father — to keep their weapons under lock and key? Or will it quickly be reduced to a lot of irrelevant moaning about Hollywood, the latest comic book movie and Planned Parenthood? We’re with those Parkland students and Chief Acevedo: It’s time to vote these heartless and gutless politicians out of public office.

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