Gun Violence

Beyond Thoughts and Prayers

It happened again.

This time, the mass school shooting was at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. The victims were custodian Michael Hill, principal Katherine Koonce, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, and nine-year-old third graders Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs. Hallie was the daughter of the senior pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, the congregation where the private pre-K through sixth grade school was located. Once again, a place of worship and elementary school that should have been sanctuaries were instead reminders that there are no safe havens from guns in our nation. And once again, the shooter was armed with a handgun and two assault-style rifles. As Newsweek reported, “one of the weapons used appears to be a KelTec SUB2000 Carbine Rifle, a foldable semi-automatic weapon that the manufacturer describes as ‘fun to shoot.’” The KelTec website went on: “Folded, it tucks away nicely in situations where space is limited, but it’s quick to deploy in situations where time is of the essence.”

Why does our nation continue to allow weapons of war that have no business in civilian hands to be manufactured, marketed, and mass distributed as fun to shoot, convenient ways of killing our children?

Soon after the shooting Rep. Andy Ogles, the Republican member of Congress who represents the Nashville community where the shooting happened, said in a statement that as a father of three he was “utterly heartbroken by this senseless act of violence.” But others were quick to reshare the Christmas message Rep. Ogles posted to social media in 2021 that featured a photo of him, his wife, and two of their three children smiling and holding rifles as they posed in front of a Christmas tree. His caption read: “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil influence—they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” And so in that family picture, guns were given their place of honor alongside the symbols of the good of Christmas.

Rep. Ogles is just one of a group of elected officials who have made a deliberate show of displaying themselves and their children in Christmas cards that glorify guns along with the birth of Christ. Meanwhile, as many of those same officials once again offered their thoughts and prayers, another Republican Tennessee Congressman, lifetime NRA member Tim Burchett, was singled out for candidly explaining what he thought they would do next in our nation that stands alone as the only industrialized nation where gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teenagers: “It’s a horrible, horrible situation. And we’re not gonna fix it.” When a reporter followed up to ask Rep. Burchett if he thought there was any role Congress could play, he answered, “I don’t see any real role that we could do other than mess things up.” When another reporter asked specifically what else could be done to protect other children like his own little girl and keep them safe at school, he replied that his child was homeschooled.

In his opening prayer in the Capitol the day after the shooting, Senate Chaplain Retired Rear Admiral Barry C. Black gave a rare, pointed, powerful plea on behalf of our nation’s leaders that stands as a prayer from all of us:

Eternal God, we stand in awe of You.

Lord, when babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers.

Remind our lawmakers of the words of the British statesman Edmund Burke: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.’

Lord, deliver our Senators from the paralysis of analysis that waits for the miraculous.

Use them to battle the demonic forces that seek to engulf us.

We pray, in Your powerful name, Amen.