In the last couple of weeks, in the midst of two more mass shootings, we have been covered in the prayers of legislators who would have us do nothing. Martin Luther King once said something to the effect that expecting God to do what we refuse to do is not faith but superstition. And superstition abounds in the Republican response to gun violence.
But there is a growing Republican effort to move past prayer… past God…. to another direction….. to Tim Murphy. Particularly in recent days “mental health reform” is becoming more and more the Republican response to gun violence. And at least in my observation it seems to be working. It is not really, in the end, about making this a less violent country. It is about saving the Republican brand from the anger of those who are sick of the empty prayers of inactive politicians who stand on their soapboxes while we wait for word of the next shooting. The Murphy Bill is fast becoming the Republican Party’s best way to protect itself from public outrage and scrutiny as to how much it has become little more than the legislative branch of the NRA.
A couple of weeks ago Murphy made it through markup in the subcommittee, but in winning it also lost. Democratic objections were loud and strong. They mirrored in most respects the objections made by many advocates. It was also pointed out that many provisions in the bill were not likely to be well received in the Senate or the White House and the plea was made for a bipartisan effort to create a bill that was more than an empty theatrical effort.
But then Colorado happened… and then San Bernardino… And today for the first time since 1920 The New York Times has a front page editorial calling for action on gun violence. So what now???
The Murphy Bill has never really been about facts. It has been about anger and fear. In the last public interview I heard with Rep Murphy when asked about what effect his bill would have had on preventing Sandy Hook he spent a good part of the rest of the interview rambling on about the sessions on a program at an Alternatives Conference as proof that “frivolous spending” by Samsha had caused all this tragedy. Facts are irrelevant.
The Republican Party has a problem. It is a problem that will only grow larger with each succeeding tragedy. People really don’t care about their prayers or their empty rhetoric. They have to do something, particularly in the midst of a presidential campaign they need to act. They have few things on their menu to choose from. Speaker of the House Ryan has given his blessing to the Murphy Bill.
Make your voice heard. This is such an important time. The mental health system is broken. We need and deserve real action and real solutions. And we need to say loudly we are much more than the solution to a public relations problem and we refuse to be sacrificed at the altar to appease the NRA.