Perhaps Tennessee didn’t pray hard enough.
Back in 2019, Governor Bill Lee declared a statewide day of prayer and fasting. He told a group of religious leaders that if the people of his state joined him as he petitioned for divine protection against school shootings and other maladies, God would definitely answer those prayers.
Where was God on Monday morning in Nashville?
There, at a Christian elementary school, an assailant armed to the hilt with weapons of mass destruction shot through the glass doors and proceeded to murder three staff members, and three 9-year-old children.
Only God knows for sure why those little ones were mowed down, the reason those adults died, and how those deaths, and so many like them, could have been prevented. To suggest otherwise would be to politicize a tragedy, which would be shameful.
So we must not mention the fact that Tennessee — where close to 5,000 people, including 98 children under 11, have been killed by guns since 2014 — has laws so lax that almost anybody with a heartbeat can get weapons, including those designed to tear human bodies apart. In 2021, Lee pushed and signed a law that allows just about anybody 21 or older in his state to carry handguns without permits, background checks, or training. On Monday, the day of the killings in Nashville, a federal judge cleared the way to lower the age to 18. The state has no meaningful red flag law that would take guns from somebody who might pose a danger to themselves or others, like the shooter on Monday, whom police said was being treated for an emotional disorder, but who nonetheless legally obtained seven weapons.
It cannot be relevant that politicians like Congressman Andy Ogle, who represents the district where the shooting happened, seems to worship guns, that he and his fellow Republicans in Congress have made them holy talismans of freedom, pinning AR-15 badges to their lapels. In 2021 Ogle sent out a Christmas card with a family portrait in which he, his wife, and their children were packing serious heat, along with the inspirational message that the ubiquity of weaponry “restrains evil interference” and deserves “a place of honor with all that’s good.”
It is no use pointing out that statistics give the lie to this position, that the presence of a gun in a home means people who live there are more likely to die from them, that there are fewer mass shootings when assault weapons are restricted. To focus on such things is to ignore the real cause of those shootings and other gun violence.
Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett put it best when he was asked about what politicians like him could do in the wake of another deadly rampage.
“There’s not a lot lawmakers can do,” he said. “There is a lot of evil and meanness in this world. … It’s a very helpless feeling.”
There’s only one way to fight evil, and it’s not with gun safety laws, the congressman said.
“We need a real revival in this country,” he offered. “Let’s call on our Christian ministers and our people of faith.”
Exactly. Look not to mankind to stem the endless flow of children’s blood, but to the heavens.
Lord knows, Burchett and others are laboring mightily on that front, fighting for their version of Christianity to become everyone’s. All over the country, his party is protecting children in ways that really matter, saving them from the evils of lessons and books that might teach them about racism, homosexuality, and gender identity. In Tennessee earlier this month, Lee signed a ban on gender-affirming care for those under 18, and a nation-leading ban on drag shows in public places. Burchett cheered him on, declaring that, “We don’t put up with that crap in Tennessee.”
There and elsewhere, Republicans are using the very same legislative process that would have zero impact on gun violence to transform education. That the killer in the Nashville shooting was reportedly transgender only proves the justness of their cause.
They know where the blame truly lies. And, because there are no checkpoints at state borders, no laws to stop motivated malefactors with weapons from Tennessee coming to those with strong gun safety laws like ours, we have to live with their convictions, too.
If that makes you feel unsafe, pray harder.
Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.