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We can do this. Let’s have the will to do it and put the energy into making it happen

UVALDE, TX – MAY 24: Members of the community gather at the City of Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed before the gunman was fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)

By Sandra Strauss

Another day…another mass shooting. But not just any mass shooting. Nineteen children, ages 8-10, full of life, energy, and promise. Two teachers in the prime of their lives, loved, dedicated, and respected. The husband of one teacher as well, not the victim of a gun, but heart-broken and dead from a heart attack, leaving four young children—”collateral damage” because of the carnage that took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24.

I’m grieving for the community of Uvalde, who have lost not just part of their future, but their innocence and sense of security. I mourn for the families and friends who will miss all the milestones that would have come in the lives of the lost ones over the years—birthdays, graduations, marriages, other celebrations.

I’m angry. I’m disgusted. One more time—elected officials have failed to do what is necessary to protect the people they pretend to serve. One more time—they make excuses for why it happened, such as the mental health of the shooter, and deny that it has anything to do with the tidal wave of weapons of war inundating our country.

One more time—”thoughts and prayers” for the families and the community, as if that is enough or solves anything. One more time—claiming the solution is more guns, arming teachers, limiting access to schools. One more time, because of the lying, deflection, and denial—they will take millions more from gun lobbies and continue to do nothing.

We’re in a crisis, and it isn’t just the guns, though they are a big part of it. It’s the fear and hatred running rampant among parts of our society that feeds the violence.

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It’s the perpetuation of lies like “replacement theory.” It’s the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and voter fraud is widespread. It’s the belief that “undeserving” persons (takers) are taking from “deserving” persons (makers). It’s the myth that corporations and wealthy persons need breaks because they will create jobs and cause our economy to boom.

It’s the whipping up of these ideas by unbridled “news” sources whose business plans and revenues are built on feeding lies and disinformation to populations that are vulnerable because of the lies and cheating by those same corporations and persons that have benefited from government largesse at our expense.

We can meet this crisis, but not in our current environment. We definitely need new, better, and common-sense gun laws and regulations—not to remove guns from law-abiding owners, but to stem the tide of illegal guns and weapons of war, and make sure they stay out of the hands of those who might harm themselves or others.

We need better mental health services that care for those who are hurting—from the 18-year-olds shooting up schools and supermarkets to veterans with PTSD who are committing suicide.

We must ensure provision of services that keep people from reaching a mental health crisis, such as helping with housing and food security, excellent education that doesn’t vary by zip code, health care services that aren’t dependent on income, and jobs that pay a living wage that make it possible to live with dignity without having to work several jobs to make ends meet. And we must protect the environment, so no one is susceptible to disease and injury because of unsafe air or water.

As a person of faith, I have thoughts and prayers for the people of Uvalde and Buffalo, and so many other places, who are suffering unimaginable pain and loss.

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But my thoughts and prayers extend to addressing the wider crisis in our country—ensuring that we have laws to protect us from continuing gun carnage, and services that address the needs of ALL Americans, not just the few that have the wealth to control the narrative.

My thoughts and prayers extend to elected officials who claim to be pro-life and refuse to do anything to deal with gun violence or keeping their constituents from slipping through the cracks—that these officials might either have a change of heart or face defeat in future elections. We the People may disagree on approaches to many things, but we know the vast majority agree on the need to address the gun violence epidemic in our country.

Unlike the elected officials who are in my thoughts and prayers, I plan to back my thoughts and prayers with action, and I invite anyone who might be reading this to join me. It’s up to us. No more “thoughts and prayers” without action. We must be relentless in demanding that they act, and if they don’t, replacing them with someone who will.

We can do this—let’s have the will to do it and put the energy into making it happen.

The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss is the director of Advocacy & Ecumenical Outreach for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches. She writes from Harrisburg. 

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