1. Opinion

Ruth: Prayers are not enough to stop gun violence

What's important to keep in mind here is everybody is really, really sorry about the murders of 26 church parishioners in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Everybody is shocked and grief-stricken.

We know this because so many public officials have, in no uncertain terms, expressed profound sympathy for the victims, the wounded and their decimated families.

From Asia, President Donald Trump has reached out the Sutherland Springs victims by extending his heartfelt "thoughts and prayers."

And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also did his due diligence by chiming in that he, too, wanted the community to know his "thoughts and prayers" were weighing heavily on his mind.

Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz weren't far behind in thinking and praying about the carnage. Cornyn, especially, added the moving touch that he was heartbroken, as well.

In trying times like these, we can always count on the nation's leaders to go all in when it comes to empathy.

But doing very much about all the killing? Not so much.

Once again a gunman has claimed multiple lives — 26, with the dead ranging from 5 years old to 72.

And yet any suggestion Congress should act to address the ever-growing violence is met with the boilerplate palaver that it is "too soon" to talk about gun control measures to make society safer.

Trump dismissed the Sutherland Springs tragedy as the perverse handiwork of an individual with "mental health" issues. "This isn't a guns situation," the president of the United States said before resuming his thoughts and prayers.

Even more bizarrely, Trump expressed astonishment that a gunman could enter a church in rural Texas and kill 26 people. "Who would think a thing like this could ever happen?" he wondered.

We are only a little more than a month removed from the worst mass murder in American history, when Stephen Paddock killed 58 people attending a country music concert in Las Vegas. You would think a president who claims to have the greatest memory in the history of memories would remember that.

It's always too soon to confront the ready availability of weapons in the hands of unbalanced people. On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman murdered 20 first-graders and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But it's still too soon to talk about commonsense gun control.

Fourteen people died in a hail of gunfire in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, 2015. Still too soon?

At the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, 49 people were murdered. Still too soon?

And in between all those shootings, there has been an endless trail of bloodstained bodies from coast to coast in movie theaters, schools, churches and businesses. And it is still too soon?

Proponents of more stringent gun control measures are frequently criticized for "politicizing" the gun issue. But if not now, in the wake of yet another horrific tragedy, when?

Fifty-eight people, Forty-nine people. Twenty-six people, including 20 first-graders. And now another mass killing of people assembled to worship. All dead at the hands of deranged people armed to the teeth with precious few constraints on obtaining their weapons.

And what is the response of the president and the rest of Washington? Tepid thoughts and prayers.

We do have a mental health issue when it comes to guns. It's a national leadership imbued with cowardice, more preoccupied with clinging onto office than actually governing.

The same huckstering politicians who love to brag about how they fight for this and fight for that are all too eager to wilt like puppies rather than stand up to the National Rifle Association.

This is a national tragedy of an abject failure of leadership.

To be sure, the souls of the victims of these mass murders are worthy of "thoughts and prayers." But it would appear self-evident all the benedictions on behalf of the dead don't seem to be working.

While the politicians pray, the body count rises.

The nation is awash in weapons. The nation also has no shortage of deeply troubled people haunted by their demons. And yet Washington's only response to the crisis of mayhem seems to be to give everyone a rosary and hope for the best until the next trigger is pulled by the next unhinged killer.

"Who would ever think a thing like this would ever happen?" Trump asked.

Who would ever think, thoughts and prayers notwithstanding, a thing like this won't happen again and again and again?