Rick Scott urges prayer, not action, to combat mass shootings

"The most important thing we have to do is we need more prayer, first off, rather than less," Scott says when asked about what to do about mass shootings.
Gov. Rick Scott in Jacksonville on Monday. [Twitter]
Gov. Rick Scott in Jacksonville on Monday. [Twitter]
Published Nov. 7, 2017|Updated Nov. 7, 2017

In 90 seconds on Monday, Rick Scott said the word "evil" nine times.

No word on background checks. Nothing uttered on limiting assault weapons. No word that would apply to any policy that would address why 31 percent of gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, even though Americans make up only 4.4 percent of the global population.

During a news conference in Jacksonville, Scott was asked about the backlash he faced on Twitter because his reaction after a mass shooting is to offer prayers, but no action.

Scott defended that approach. When asked if Republicans were going to offer action beyond prayers, this is how Scott replied:

"The most important thing we have to do is we need more prayer, first off, rather than less. We need to pray for all these families. Last week we had a terrorist attack in New York City, and we need to pray for when these things happen. It's horrible when these things happen. It's evil when these things happen. So whether it's the terrorist attack with a truck, whether it's somebody doing what they did in the church in the San Antonio area, I'm going to pray for them. We know it's evil. I believe in the Second Amendment.  I just wish there was no evil in the world."

When asked if he would call what happened in Sutherland Springs "domestic terrorism", Scott demurred.

"It's evil, whatever you want to call it. It's evil what happened. It's evil what happened with the terrorist that happened in New York, it was a terrorist inspired by ISIS, (inaudible), it's evil. All of these things. It's evil. Evil is evil kills."

Note the sense of helplessness that Scott is expressing here ("I just wish there was no evil in the world").

For one of the most powerful public officials in America, that's a lot of praying and wishing to take care of an issue that, according to the New York Times' The Interpreter, could be handled effectively by any number of government policies.

"The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns," writes Max Fisher and Josh Keller.  "More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries. This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence."

Perhaps moved by Scott's despair, a reporter asked what specific action can be taken to prevent mass shootings such as Pulse and Sutherland Springs?

Yet again, however, Scott offered no concrete plans. He urged more praying and mourning, as if the only thing that can be done is to brace for the next massacre.

"The first thing we need to do is to take care of all the families. After the Pulse attack, I spent quite a bit of time there talking to families and mourning with them….I'm always, when the Legislature has ideas to reduce violence, I believe in.   I have three primary jobs: No. 1 make sure people get a job, No. 2 make sure their children get a great education and (No. 3) to keep people safe. We're at a 46-year low in our crime rate. Last year in my budget I had 46 counter-terrorism experts with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Those are the types of things I'm going to continue to focus on."

Scott's spokesman, McKinley Lewis, did provide a statement to The Buzz just before 11 a.m. today that goes beyond thoughts and prayers. Here it is: "Governor Scott believes that no man who spends a year in jail for abusing his wife and child should be able to purchase or own a gun. The Governor strongly supports the Second Amendment but this is not acceptable."

And here's the video from Monday, provided by a liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. This footage will surely come up in next year's U.S. Senate race, where Sen. Bill Nelson is running for re-election and has already urged action.