Anti Gun Violence Billboard in Lynchburg, VA

My ageing eyes focus on the traffic ahead of me, and I rarely notice billboards or anything else on the periphery of my vision. But the other day while I was driving down Fort Avenue in Lynchburg, I noticed a billboard in bold lettering:

“Know something about a shooting? Your turn. Gun violence is not a game.”

This billboard with the vaguely menacing message and no accompanying image left an indelible impression on my mind. One cynical interpretation of this stark message is that violence can strike anyone, and it might be our turn next. It can also mean that if we have any information about any violent crime, it’s incumbent upon to “if we see something say something.” In other words, it’s our turn to do something.

When I got home, I did some research and I learned that the billboard was financed by Ceasefire Virginia, an organization seeking to cut down crime in Virginia’s highest-crime cities, which includes Lynchburg.

The fact that Lynchburg has a problem with gun violence comes as no surprise to me, the other day there was a shooting in the Waffle House on Wards Road that I frequently patronize.

Even people who live is small quaint towns like Bedford travel to Lynchburg for employment, recreation, dining or shopping, therefore it’s in the best interests of all us in Central Virginia to lobby our lawmakers to address the issue of gun violence.

Thoughts and Prayers Are as Effective as Passing Wind in Stopping Gun Violence

Whenever a natural or a man-made disaster strikes thoughts and prayers are offered in the hopes that the Almighty might intervene and stop the endless cycle of death and destruction.

But “acts of God “such as hurricanes and wildfires have increased in frequency and intensity due to man-made climate change, and mass shootings have increased in frequency and lethality due to our inability to pass common sense gun laws and the criminal neglect of people suffering from mental illness.

Atheists, believers and anyone with two brains cells to rub together should come to the inescapable conclusion that passing wind to put out a wildfire is as effective as praying to stop a mass shooting.

Prayers dissipate before they reach heaven and they are of little comfort to victims grieving over the death of loved ones. Windbag politicians and sanctimonious preachers should stop insulting our intelligence by reflectively offering their thoughts and prayers in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Let’s not waste our breath uttering useless thoughts and prayers and instead expend our energy and resources in tackling the intractable problems of climate change and gun violence.

Stop Gun Violence! Stop Offering Thoughts and Prayers!

Whenever there’s a mass shooting so-called “people of faith”, who hold a tighter grip on their guns than they do on their prayer beads and Bibles, litter social media with thoughts and prayers.

These thoughts and prayers are as efficacious in preventing gun violence and ameliorating its devastating consequences as a gun that emits a flag saying “BANG” when the trigger is pulled is at stopping a burglar who has broken into your home.

Faith without works is dead and offering vacuous thoughts and prayers after a massacre is an affront and an insult to the victims and to everyone who lives in fear of gun violence.

A million thoughts and prayers on Twitter aren’t worth a hill of beans, and they don’t reach heaven or even the power brokers in D.C.

With all due respect, people of faith can stuff their thoughts and prayers where the sun don’t shine. If they were serious about stopping gun violence, and if they really cared about the victims, they would weaponize their thoughts and prayers by taking on the NRA and demanding that lawmakers ban military-style firearms.

If I’m the victim of gun violence and a person offers me his thoughts and prayers I would respond as if he had intentionally farted in my face.

If we ban the phrase “thoughts and prayers” from the lexicon, religion and our democracy would be better off.

Donald Trumps Seeks Authoritarian Solutions for Gun Violence and Opioid Crisis

Donald Trump has expressed a fondness and affinity for dictators like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and even North Korean Dear Leader (smart cookie) Kim Jong-un.

Like the aforementioned despots Trump has an aversion for the hallmarks of any thriving democracy: An independent judiciary, a robust and free press, and the concept of due process.

Trump, during a bipartisan meeting at the White House to discuss school safety and gun violence, said it might be better in some cases to allow police to confiscate guns from potentially disturbed individuals before allowing due process. “Take the gun first, go through due process second,” Trump declared. That`s the proclamation of a tin-pot dictator, and not a sentence that a United States president should ever utter.

In the same week that Trump expressed disdain for due process he also advocated the death penalty for drug dealers. At a White House summit on opioid abuse he said:

“If you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them.”

According to Wikipedia more than 14,000 people have been killed since Duterte declared a war on drugs and ordered the police and military to kill drug dealers without due process. There`s a river of blood flowing in the Philippines, but drugs are as plentiful as they were before Duterte`s ill-conceived war on drugs.

Trump would be well-advised to focus on the public health component of the opioid crisis. Tough talk like demanding the death penalty for drug dealers might excite his base, but it won`t do anything to fight the opioid epidemic.

Authoritarian measures won`t solve the intractable problems like gun violence or the opioid crisis, Trump needs to remember that he`s the president of the greatest democracy in the world and not the dictator of a Third World dictatorship.

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