A few thoughts about prayers after the KC rally shootings

It’s both guns and free-floating rage that are killing us



February 16, 2024 - 3:59 PM

We need more than prayers to address U.S. gun violence. Police officers remain on the scene after Wednesday's shooting spree following the KC Chiefs victory rally in Kansas City, Missouri. (Nick Wagner/The Kansas City Star/TNS)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Look, I happen to believe in prayer, which as all of the rest of you who do, too, know is nothing like asking Santa for Barbie’s pink Corvette. 

As my son said when he was little, “Sometimes, it’s a no.”

In fact, I’m the Aunt Crabby who didn’t think we should even be holding our citywide Super Bowl street party on Ash Wednesday, when everyone knows that Fat Tuesday is the right day for revelry.

But I also believe that Emanuel Cleaver II, the United Methodist pastor who represents Kansas City in Congress, was right to walk out of a congressional moment of silence after Wednesday’s mass shooting. He’s been doing that for more than a year now, to protest the fact that his fellow lawmakers refuse to back up their prayers with pro-life action on guns.

With tears in his eyes, Cleaver told The Star that Wednesday “was supposed to be one of the happiest days in decades, and then people are running for their lives. I know that if the murder of children didn’t inspire Congress to act, then the murder of football fans won’t get a piece of consideration. So it goes on and on and on. I don’t know what to do.”

That half of those fans who were injured were children won’t change the calculus.

When and only when voters decide to elect more lawmakers willing to even start making it stop, then it will. Not immediately, but inevitably.

One legal change that has been proven to work is something that used to be routine. But then, in 2007, the Missouri legislature stopped making anyone buying a handgun go through a background check in person at their sheriff’s office.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that in the first six years after the state repealed that requirement, Missouri’s gun homicide rate rose by 16% — even as the national rate declined by 11%. The kind of law Missouri repealed is considered the single most effective way to keep those who really shouldn’t have guns from getting them. In the decade after Connecticut passed such a law, gun murders went down by 40%.

As always in these dark moments, speakers at Wednesday’s news conference in Kansas City praised the bravery of the first responders whose job it was to run towards the gunfire. It’s right that we should do that, especially because it’s not a given.

But what I always think when I hear those words of praise is that if we really cared about the well-being of our first responders, we would stop making their lives, too, so much more dangerous than they already are with our anywhere, anytime for anybody at all gun laws. “Back the blue” and “guns for all” are opposing impulses.

If the presence of 800 armed law enforcement officers at the Super Bowl parade didn’t prevent the gunfire, do we really think that that 801st good guy with a gun might have made the difference?

Some of those readers who wrote to me after the parade said yes, they do think that. But we cannot arm our way out of the admittedly complicated problem of gun violence.

Problem is guns, and also hatred

Predictably, among the many arguing that guns have nothing to do with the problem was the Missouri Republican Rep. Mark Alford, who said the only real issue is what’s in our hearts. But he’s only half-wrong about that.