You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

No more ‘thoughts and prayers’ — pass the gun laws America needs

The Hill logo The Hill 3/29/2023 Former Gov. Ed Rendell, Opinion Contributor
© Provided by The Hill

Take a look at this list and imagine your hometown joining the list, if it isn’t already there:

Columbus, Ohio. Allentown, Pa. Durham, N.C. Miami Gardens, Fla. Chicago. Ocala, Fla. New Orleans. Washington, D.C. Dumfries, Va. Baltimore. Cedar City, Utah. San Francisco. Dallas. High Point, N.C. Huntsville, Ala. Albany, Ga. Minneapolis. Denver. Philadelphia. Cleveland. St. Louis. Phoenix. Homestead, Fla. Houston. Rockford, Ill. Fort Pierce, Fla. Goshen, Calif. Sanford, Fla. Monterey Park, Calif. Shreveport, La. Robinsonville, Miss. Baton Rouge, La. Half Moon Bay, Calif. Oakland, Calif. Red Springs, N.C. Lancaster, Pa. Newark, N.J. San Diego. Beverly Hills, Calif. Austin, Texas. Andrews, S.C. Greensboro, N.C. Lakeland, Fla. Texas City, Texas. Los Angeles. Huntsville, Texas. Peyton, Colo. Newport, Ariz. Tucson, Ariz. Stockton, Calif. Corpus Christi, Texas. Elizabeth City, N.C. Laurinburg, N.C. Bronx, N.Y. Brooklyn, N.Y. Louisville, Miss. East Lansing, Mich. Paterson, N.J. Buffalo, N.Y. Pittsburgh. El Paso, Texas. Columbus, Ga. Coldwater, Miss. Loris, S.C. Memphis, Tenn. Indianapolis. Colorado Springs, Colo. Orlando, Fla. Abbeville, La. Machesney Park, Ill. St. Paul, Minn. Detroit. Pompano Beach, Fla. New Richmond, Ohio. Cocoa, Fla. San Pedro, Calif. Cape Girardeau, Mo. Douglasville, Ga. Shreveport, La. Lake City, Fla. Capitol Heights, Md. Bolingbrook, Ill. Sacramento, Calif. Pine Bluff, Ark. Hialeah, Fla. Vancouver, Wash. Lubbock, Texas. Birmingham, Ala. Portland, Ore. Milwaukee. Sumter, S.C. Trenton, N.J. Macomb, Ill. Williamston, N.C. Hempstead, N.Y. Minden, La. Little Rock, Ark. Hyattsville, Md. and Nashville, Tenn.

I thought about offering free tickets to every game the Nationals play in this year’s World Series to the first 20 readers who could correctly identify what this list represents. Unfortunately, almost all of our readers can probably identify that these are the locations where 131 mass shootings have occurred in America in 2023 — in some of these cities, more than once. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

I woke up early Tuesday morning and, as I always do, turned on “Morning Joe,” where the first two hours of the show was devoted solely to the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on Monday, March 27. Three adults and three children were gunned down by an individual wielding two AR-style guns and a pistol. 

As usual, there were obligatory messages from senators and Congress members — including Republicans — on how tragic it was, and how they were holding the families of those killed in their “thoughts and prayers.” Hearing this, I wanted to scream. They should pass a law that no elected official can use those words about a mass shooting, because it is the height of hypocrisy for any politician to offer “thoughts and prayers” to victims’ families when they know they will not support any changes to stop gun violence.

As I continued to watch “Morning Joe,” suddenly the screen was filled with a picture of one of the children killed: 9-year-old Hallie Scruggs. She looked so sweet, with her twinkling eyes and curly hair. It was heartbreaking to look at her. It dawned on me that she reminded me of my granddaughter, Rosalind, who just celebrated her ninth birthday last week. Looking at Hallie filled me with enormous sadness and incalculable rage. I can’t imagine what her family and friends — and the families and friends of the others who were killed — might be feeling at that moment. And what about the families of all the children who were killed in this year’s other mass shootings, or the mass shootings that date back to Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, or Columbine High School, 24 years ago this coming April? 

I decided then and there that what happened in Nashville must become an inflection point for our country. Last year, more children were killed by guns in America than all the other Western nations combined. It was not even close.

This has to end. Don’t tell me that gun laws can’t be changed, when New Zealand had a mass shooting in 2019 and the New Zealand government set out to pass strict gun-control legislation — and did so within six months. New Zealand has not had another mass shooting since. Gun violence there is rare.

We can do this. We must do this. It will take courage on the part of our members of Congress but, truth be told, it shouldn’t require much fortitude because many polls show Americans strongly favor commonsense gun safety laws. If it were up to me, we would pass gun safety laws as strict and comprehensive as those in New Zealand. Weapons of war, such as AR-style firearms and multiple-shot magazines, should be barred forever in America.

In 1994, when the House passed a law banning so-called “assault” weapons, 38 Republicans voted yes and 77 Democrats voted no. But that ban expired in 2004, when the Republican-controlled Congress refused to renew it. So, to those members of Congress today who are nervous about potentially losing their seats by voting on such a bill again, I suggest this: Take a look at Hallie Scruggs’ photo. Look at her face for 10 minutes, without moving, and you will find the courage to vote for what you know is right.

But I’m going to make it easy for Congress: Break down the changes we need into smaller increments and pass them, one after another, every six months. Start with what should be the easiest and pledge that by Memorial Day, Congress will pass legislation making multiple-capacity magazines — many of which contain 30, 50 or 100 bullets — illegal in this country. We did it in the 1994 law, making it illegal to possess a magazine with more than 10 bullets.  

If this does not work, and nothing will stiffen Congress’ resolve, then I propose once again that we enact term limits for both chambers. It will be much easier for politicians to find courage to act if they know their positions are not lifetime jobs. Regretfully, this may be our only hope. I am going to think about it, and pray for it, until it happens.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. Follow him on Twitter @GovEdRendell.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.


More from The Hill

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon