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'God Isn't Fixing This' Argument Divides Even More In Gun Debate

Attendees at a Donald Trump rally in Manassas, Va., take part in a prayer and moment of silence after the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings.
Cliff Owen
Attendees at a Donald Trump rally in Manassas, Va., take part in a prayer and moment of silence after the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings.

As yet another mass shooting claimed the lives of 14 people Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif., a familiar refrain echoed from the lips of politicians: Pray.

But for many fed up with the now seemingly routine shootings and the resulting inaction from each over how to stop another tragedy, pleas to God weren't enough anymore.

That was the sentiment New York's Daily News proclaimed on its cover Thursday. With the headline blaring, "God Isn't Fixing This," the tabloid highlighted the tweets of GOP politicians, each asking for prayer following the shooting at an office party at the Inland Regional Center.

"Prayers aren't working," the paper wrote. "White House hopefuls on the Democratic side of the aisle called for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting. ... But after yet another mass shooting in America, GOP presidential contenders were conspicuously silent on the issue of gun control. Instead, the Republicans were preaching about prayer."

The hashtag #GodIsntFixingThis soon began trending on Twitter.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who called for more gun restrictions after the devastating shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in his state two years ago, echoed those sentiments.

Others argued back that God wasn't acting, because he had been removed from schools and the public sphere.

The passionate online reactions mirror just how divided Americans are on the issue. An October CNN/ORC poll showed the public was split — 52 percent oppose stricter gun control laws, while 46 percent support new ones.

Others thought the online backlash against prayer came across as crass.

"Mock­ery isn't fix­ing this. As a sup­port­er of stronger gun con­trol, this New York Daily News cov­er and the re­lated #God­Isn'tFix­ingThis Twit­ter storm make me wince. Only people who agree with me can pray for vic­tims of gun vi­ol­ence?" National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote, adding, "[I]t in­sults any­body who opposes gun con­trol and demeans their sym­path­ies for the vic­tims. It mocks their pray­ers. That's no way to win a cul­ture war."

Dr. Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote this in The Washington Post:

"Ironically, enough, the 'Don't Just Pray There, Do Something' meme will actually keep things from happening. After all, some of our biggest obstacles to policy solutions of any kind is an ideologically fractured populace where virtually every issue is a test of political purity.

"If you shame away the most human aspects of public life — such as the call to pray for one another — you will find this situation worsening, not getting better. After all, we learn to listen to one another, and even work together, because we see one another as fellow humans, fellow citizens, as people of goodwill, not just as avatars to be warred against on a screen."

Thursday evening, Daily News Editor-in-Chief Jim Rich put out a statement saying the headline wasn't meant to demean prayers in a time of crisis.

"The Daily News' front page is not, in any way, shape or form, condemning prayer or religion. Anyone suggesting otherwise is either — intentionally or unintentionally — misconstruing the point, which is that most GOP politicians have offered nothing but empty platitudes and angry rhetoric in response to the ongoing plague of gun violence in our country," Rich said.

Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Washington that since the shooters in San Bernardino were Muslim it "may be 'yet another manifestation' of 'radical Islamic terrorism,' " as USA Today noted.

Donald Trump also connected the shooting as "probably" related to "radical Islamic terrorism," per NPR's Sarah McCammon, who is at the event.

Guns have become a politicized issue for both sides. On Wednesday before the shooting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out an email asking people to sign its gun control petition, which takes you to a fundraising page.

The issue is one that will still factor deeply into the 2016 elections. During the 2012 presidential race, the National Rifle Association alone spent more than 10 times as much as gun control groups.

This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. ET with a statement from the Daily News and was corrected at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 3, 2015 at 9:00 PM PST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when an email from the DCCC went out. The gun control petition was sent out on Wednesday, not Thursday.
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.