Hands full of blood: Boycott the gun lobby and its supporters. They are killing our children.
"When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!" (Isaiah 1:15)
After the latest Texas massacre of elementary school children, it is time to stop saying nothing can be done. We must not turn the page on another mass murder of kids. The page must be held here. It is time to stop saying this is a problem with the American people. It’s not. The vast and overwhelming majority of the American citizens – across the political spectrum – are all in favor of common sense gun safety laws.
This is not a political issue: this is a moral issue. When we are putting weapons of war into the hands of anyone over 18, with no background checks or training in the use of firearms, or any reason to have such killing machines except to murder as many people as fast as possible, this is a moral challenge to our whole way of life and to everything we say we believe about our democracy and our religion. It is not just failing to love or respect our neighbor; it is allowing the senseless slaughter of our neighbor.
It’s also time to stop calling this a political failure of the Congress and state legislatures. It is not. It’s a particular failure of particular leaders from a particular party – the Republican Party – which has been taken over by the National Rifle Association. Democrats would pass gun sensible and effective gun safety laws tomorrow. President Joe Biden would sign those laws the next day. But Republicans have blocked all attempts, over and over again. This is not, as they say, a non-partisan issue; it is a directly partisan issue.
Republican lawmakers in Washington and Republicans in the Texas Governor’s mansion and State House have the blood of the murdered children at the Robb Elementary School on their hands. It’s time to hold them accountable — and to remove them from office if they persist.
And it is past time for faith communities in Texas and every state across this country to call out the outright lies, shameful hypocrisy and brutal irresponsibility of politicians, who have allowed guns to become the leading cause of the deaths of our children.
As one faith leader, I will start by calling out Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex) because his Congressional District includes Uvalde.
After the massacre in his district, Gonzales tweeted this:
In March 2021, the Congressman proudly tweeted, “I voted NO on two gun control measures in the House today. I am a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and will do everything I can to oppose gun grabs from the far Left. On his website, Gonzales boasted that, "I am a strong 2nd amendment supporter and received a perfect grade on my NRA questionnaire.”
I agree that Representative Gonzales should pray. He should pray to God for the repentance of his gun sins: for taking money from gun lobbyists, who have put profits ahead of public safety; for valuing his political power over the lives of the people; and for having the unbelievable arrogance and utter hypocrisy to quote the words of Scripture and the teachings of Jesus after this horrendous massacre in an effort to cover up his own grievous complicity.
Here’s a Bible verse for Republicans to consider as they offer up their useless “thoughts and prayers”:
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! (Isaiah 1:15)
As an Uber driver said to me Wednesday morning, deer don’t wear bullet proof vests that require automatic weapons, which are only needed to kill as many people as fast as you can. And when an 18 year old can buy himself two M15 rifles and mountains of ammunition as a birthday present to himself, without any background checks or gun training, how does that protect anybody’s freedom?
Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, where 20 elementary school children and six adults were mass murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in his state 10 years ago, literally begged his colleagues on the Senate Floor on Wednesday to join him to even support the most minimal achievement of background checks on gun purchases. But so far, no response from any Republicans except more excuses and distractions.
In the press conference before an NBA playoff basketball game on Tuesday night between the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors (of whom I am a devoted fan), Golden State coach Steve Kerr wouldn’t talk about basketball but, instead, erupted in passion about the lack of Senate votes needed to pass the common sense gun safety laws.
“We are being held hostage by 50 Senators in Washington who refuse to put it to a vote despite what we the American people want.” He called out Republican Senators – only ten of whose votes would be needed to pass these critically needed gun laws. “They won’t vote on it because they want to hold on to their own power. It’s pathetic. I’ve had enough!” Then Coach Kerr walked angrily off of the stage.
After getting off a long flight home from Asia, President Biden again showed the genuine empathy in his soul for those who have suffered the deep loss of their children. Then he pleaded, “As a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name, are we going to stand up to the gun lobby.” It is indeed time to ask that question, and to do so in God’s name.
It’s been very hard for all of us parents. The breaking news apps on my phone kept showing the faces of the children who were killed: a smiling little girl holding her honor roll award, or the “little boy who was the happiest most wonderful child you will ever know,” and one after another. I completely lost my composure. I am still seething with anger as I write this column and am not going to walk away from that outrage. Coach Kerr is right, it is time to call politicians to account, time to call out the people who block the safety for our children.
So, to Congressman Gonzales, to Texas Governor Abbot, and Texas Senator Cruz, who have said nothing about guns and offer up pathetic distractions from the real issue and and who are painfully, ironically, and perhaps providentially, scheduled to speak at the Annual National Rifle Association Conference, in Houston this weekend, I say this: Don’t you dare pray for the dead children and their families ruined lives; but pray instead for yourselves and your own salvation from guns.
Let’s make this call out very specific. It is time to focus on the NRA. Here is what one former gun executive said after the massacre in Buffalo just 10 days ago, “Last week’s Buffalo murders are the byproduct of a gun industry business model designed to profit from increasing hatred, fear, and conspiracy. How do I know? Because for years I was a senior executive in the firearms industry.”
Ryan Busse, the executive, talked about how the gun industry has fundamentally changed. “Today the industry is all in on any pro-gun influencer, especially if they spout hateful, racist, or misogynistic rhetoric.” There is only one guiding gun industry principle, Busse continued: “always shooting for more.”
“Sadly, there is nothing broken about what we’re experiencing,” Busse said. “The system is working exactly as intended. We are all now living, and dying, with the consequences.”
So what do we do about this?
Here are the Senators who get money from the National Rifle Association – with the top ten listed first.
First, these elected officials must be pressured to denounce and renounce their NRA money, which we must start calling “blood money,” or be removed from office. And Democrats should start to run against the NRA and their gun profit lobby, and run for common sense gun safety as a winning issue in our political life.
Second, like our boycotts of people and institutions who supported the evils of apartheid in South Africa, it is now time to focus on those elected officials who support and are supported by the many evils of NRA gun lobby, in putting money over people and putting the lives and the futures of our families at risk.
It is time to boycott the NRA on university and college campuses. I will personally take that commitment to the administration, faculty, and students at Georgetown University, my new home.
Because gun violence doesn’t have to happen. The killing of Black grandmothers in their grocery stores, children in their classrooms, people of all faiths in our places of worship, not to mention the many other sites of mass murder in this country, does not have to happen. These slaughtering of innocents are enabled by political choices that are completely incongruous with Jesuit values, Catholic social teaching, and the primacy of the common good. And they are absolutely contrary to the Jesus of my evangelical faith, whose name is being abused by gun proponents who violate the words of my Lord, who said “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Time to stand up, time to call out, time to take action for accountability. Time not to go on as usual, but to fight with everything we have. We are literally fighting for our children’s lives.