The website “GOP Arcade” released a game mocking the common practice of offering thoughts and prayers to victims of a mass shooting and their families. The game suggests that only a third option, “ban assault weapon sales” would actually achieve positive change in preventing mass shootings. The problem is, an “assault weapons” ban in 1994 had no impact on mass shootings because it mischaracterized certain types of guns.
The game’s interface shows a map of the United States with mass shooting events popping up, and the option to “think” or “pray” at the bottom. Both change nothing, and after a while a third option comes up. If the player clicks “ban assault weapon sales,” the screen flashes “That’s un-American!”
No, the problem is that banning so-called assault weapons is ineffective. The 1994 ban would “probably not” have prevented the shooting in Orlando, Florida, and someone with the expertise of Omar Mateen would easily have been able to navigate around it.
The 1994 version used inessential cosmetic factors to identify an “assault weapon,” like whether or not you can add a bayonet to the gun. Anyone who knows firearms could tell you this would have approximately zero impact in a shooting situation.
Furthermore, the political push of Democrats in the Senate isn’t even on assault weapons, but on taking guns away from anyone on “terror watch lists.” This is particularly rich because those watch lists are notoriously unreliable, and Mateen wasn’t on any of them.
I suggest a new game, called “Ban Assault Weapons & Terror Watch Lists.” You can click either of the buttons at the bottom, but it changes nothing, as mass shootings continue. Then a third button shows up — “Show Solidarity through Thoughts and Prayers.” If you click that button, you get a big flashing screen — “That’s un-American!”
Next Page: The true value of thoughts and prayers.
It’s terrifying when you realize that you are utterly powerless to completely stop tragedies like what happened in Orlando. While we can fight radical Islamic terror in many ways, and we could theoretically disarm all American citizens, laws are routinely broken and many radicals are able to fly beneath the radar.
There is evidence that the F.B.I. could have stopped Mateen, if they had listened to a warning from a gun shop owner that he might be dangerous. Nevertheless, hindsight is always 20-20, and it is far too easy to bludgeon either side when tragedy strikes.
Ultimately, the best thing we can do is sympathize with those who lost loved ones. That’s why we offer them “thoughts and prayers.” Those of us who believe in God and His ability to cause miracles can argue that prayers really do help, even if they do not prevent what happened.
But the criticism that “thoughts and prayers” do nothing to change the situation confuses the goal at hand. When people die in a senseless tragedy, their families and friends need to hear that they’re not alone in their mourning. Obviously, preventing such tragedies in the first place would be wonderful, but every tragedy already happens after prevention has failed. At that point, the best we can do is offer sympathy. It seems empty, but it’s the best we can do.
By all means, let’s find the best way to prevent such attacks. A certain type of gun control may be the answer (nothing so far suggested is adequate), but mocking the urge to sympathize with the bereaved most certainly is not.