Just by looking at the words "proactive" and "reactive," you can kind of tell which one you'd like to be. You'd go with the "pro" word, right? To be proactive means to get out in front of something, to be ahead of the game. In positions of leadership, being proactive in your planning is obviously good, as you not only try to foresee problems that haven't arisen yet but certainly could later, you also try to figure out how you're best going to address them if and when they pop up.
If you're reactive all the time, you're just putting out fires everywhere. It's like playing that whack-a-mole game; you think you've pounded one problem into oblivion and three more pop up, almost in mocking fashion when the you-know-what really starts hitting the fan. When you're reactive, there's no planning and no foresight; it's all knee-jerk reactions, and then, once the smoke clears, you try to explain yourself as you try to figure out if you really accomplished anything meaningful.
But even if you're reactive, at least you're doing something, right? You're not just sitting on your hands, maybe because you're stubborn or ignorant, but also possibly because you're afraid. Maybe worse than being reactive is being paralyzed into total inaction.
That's where we appear to be when it comes to guns and killing people with guns in our country. We've had quite a mid-summer here with a mass-shooting casualty rate that is especially eyebrow-raising, even by the standard set by the United States, which possesses absolute world-crushing dominance in this statistical area.
And, just so we're clear, sending thoughts and prayers is neither proactive nor reactive. It's a whole lot of nothing, and to our nation's so-called leaders who are so quick to tweet thoughts and prayers or stand behind a podium and offer thoughts and prayers or go on TV and offer thoughts and prayers: You are contributing nothing. You are helping no one.
Of course, those who don't want our nation's gun laws to change one bit might conclude that their steadfast heroes in Congress are actually doing very much. To these people, refusing to enact any gun-related legislation whatsoever is worthy of getting re-elected with 100% of the vote. The thoughts and prayers are kind gestures, of course, but a lawmaker clinging to the belief that the Second Amendment as it was written by the founders more than 200 years ago makes as much sense in our assault weapon-laden, gun-obsessed culture today as it did back in the days of muskets? Now THAT'S doing something!
Our political system is beyond broken. If you receive significant campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association or from this gun manufacturer or that pro-firearms group, you're going to march in lockstep as instructed, meaning thoughts and prayers is as far as you dare venture when in a single week more than 30 people are killed and dozens more are injured in a trio of mass shootings. (And, if you strictly apply the definition of "mass shooting," there have been others, but the ones at food festivals and in shopping malls and in nightclub districts are the ones you hear about the most.)
In the latest twist, it's not simply the fear of offending your power-broker donors by actually thinking for yourself when it comes to crafting legislation or voting on someone else's legislation. These days, if you dare commit the egregious crime of stepping out of line, your party leadership is going to drum up a primary challenger more willing than you to do exactly as told, and for you it's a nightmarish end to your life's dreamy, lofty aspiration: Getting elected to political office, and then staying there for a long time, before you take a cushy job either gabbing every night on cable TV news channels, or lobbying for one of the organizations that gave you all that campaign money over the years that helped you get elected, and re-elected.
The people we elect to Congress work less than we do. Sure, they have those show-off-y marathon sessions now and then, or we see them make impassioned speeches before largely empty chambers, but they spend more time trying to cozy up to donors than they do actually legislating.
This isn’t just a gun thing, obviously. It’s a criminal justice thing. It’s a mental health thing. It’s a hate thing. It’s a racial thing. But other nations across the globe struggle with those issues, too, just not the guns. That is why so many people get killed and maimed by guns here, and in no other civilized society.
I have hunting rifles in my house and I love to hunt. No one from the government is ever going to take my rifles. I know that. That would not be the result of passing gun legislation that makes sense and that a majority of Americans want.
No reasonable legislation would stop all of this gun violence. It’s true that people hell-bent on harming others will find a way, with or without a gun.
But that’s no excuse to continue to let this happen and do absolutely nothing.