OPINION: After shooting, ‘thoughts and prayers’ without a plan is just a dream
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Earlier today members of the GOP’s Congressional baseball team were participating in one of the most American of things, a friendly game of baseball, when a gunman shot into the group, severely injuring staff, security personnel and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. 

There will be much chaos and confusion as details emerge. I can vividly remember being in an ambulance holding Gabby (Giffords)’s hand while she was taken to hospital and hearing that she’d died. Traumatized while hearing inaccurate news was heartbreaking so we need to let the investigations happen to figure out the exact causes and reasons for what happened.

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We also have to recognize that we no longer are living the American dream but instead in the American nightmare, where it is commonplace to have gun violence permeate every facet of our lives. It seems like nowhere is safe. Schools, grocery stores, baseball fields and nightclubs have all been recent sites of much publicized shootings. 

 

Yet with more than 90 people being killed each and every day by guns it can become easy to accept that this a problem we just deal with. 

Normalizing everyday gun violence while sensationalizing specific shootings means we fall into the standard political trope of offering statements of thoughts and prayers as elected officials.

In the six years since the shooting in Tucson I’ve seen and participated in what is expected of us as elected officials. We must take the time to mourn this incident but we cannot let “thoughts and prayers” be the only answer. We can always hope for the best next time but the reality is as elected officials we have a moral imperative to keep our constituents, staff and ourselves safe.

We must have Republicans, Democrats and Independents come together to find common sense solutions. Starting with the need to require background checks on all gun sales. This is a proven and effective system but only when it is applied to all sales with as few loopholes as possible. We must also adequately fund mental health help for those that need it. And when we all come together to think of solutions there will doubtless be innovative and creative ways to tackle this epidemic of gun violence.

There will doubtless be a partisan blame game in the ensuing days but I ask our members of Congress: Now that two of your members in less than a decade have been shot at and nearly killed, how can you sit and do nothing? 

The gun lobby is strong but not as strong as your responsibility to yourselves and your staff. Don’t hope for this to never happen again. Take steps to prevent this from happening. Stand up to those special interests and focus on doing better if not for the American people, then do it for yourselves.

Two examples where we have seen people take on the powerful gun lobby are Gabby, a Democrat and Jim Brady, a Republican.

We can come together regardless of political ideology. And it shouldn’t take getting shot to realize that we have a job to do. If you’ve never heard from gun violence survivors or victims there are plenty who are willing to meet with you. Open your doors and we are happy to meet with you and share our stories. But after today you won't have to go too far since many of your friends and colleagues will have stories of their own.

Hope without a plan is just a dream. And we’ve seen what’s happened to the American Dream when we’ve done nothing.

Daniel Hernandez, Jr. is a gun violence survivor and helped provide first aid to Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, when she and others were shot at a constituent event in January of 2011. He’s currently serving as State Representative in Arizona for the 2nd District.


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