Seemingly everyone has something political to say in the wake of the latest -- it hurts to say that: "the latest" -- mass shooting in America, but no one appears to actually be striving for what needs to be done: taking action.

If it wasn't so sad, it would be amusing that most Americans yap, yap, yap about gun control like a kennel of dogs, then turn around, lay down and go to sleep.

I'm talking about both sides here. And I feel like I understand both sides.

My heart hurts for the victims and their loved ones in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They're in my prayers. And I have mixed feelings about some liberals who are mocking "thoughts and prayers" as useless.

On one hand, yes, if all we do in the wake of every mass shooting -- as they continue and continue -- is offer thoughts and prayers without action, that does little to help the problem.

On the other hand, how dare anyone question the power of prayer for those of us who believe?

Prayer is an intensely personal and private thing. Many people pray in private alone. Some folks pray together and aloud more than others. Some believers are more vocal about their prayer and their faith in God than others. But prayer isn't a passive endeavor -- at least, not for me.

I'm sure many people pray to ask God to show them the right actions they need to take in a particular situation. That would seem to make sense in the context of mass shootings and gun control. But first should come thoughts and prayers for the victims and their loved ones.

Yet, I'm not going to tell anyone how to pray or for what they should pray on any topic. If anyone tells me they are praying for me, I'm intensely humbled, and exactly what and how they are praying is none of my business.

Shame on people making fun of others for thoughts and prayers.

Yet prayer without action in the big picture regarding these kinds of situations specifically isn't enough. We have got to stem the tide of mass shootings in this country.

Of course, many gun rights advocates say more guns are the answer. They claim that if someone inside that Texas church had had a gun, the shooter could have been stopped before or amid his evil deeds.

And they point to the man who exchanged fire with and pursued the shooter, most likely keeping the perpetrator from killing more people. That's the way to stop a crazed gunman, they say.

And that's true. An armed good guy -- preferably a police officer, though -- is a good way to stop a gun-laden madman.

But how about stopping the mentally out-of-whack guy to begin with?

We've learned from this case that existing gun laws weren't properly enforced or utilized to prevent this murderer from having firearms in the first place.

That's where we need to start: properly enforce gun control laws already on the books.

I have no problem with more gun control for civilians: limiting the capacity of magazines, not allowing some firearms to be available to the general public, limiting how many firearms a person can purchase in a certain amount of time or more closely monitor those who buy a lot of guns in a relatively short amount of time, and so forth.

"This limits our freedoms!" some gun owners may say. Yep. That's right.

Limits on "freedom" are all around us.

We can't drive the wrong way on a one-way street. We can't buy certain cold medicines without signing for them, and we can only buy a set amount of them within a certain period of time. And there are good reasons for those limits on our freedoms.

I'm talking about reasonable limits for law-abiding citizens, parallel with tough enforcement for those who are found illegally possessing guns.

But don't call me anti-gun.

I went target shooting a few weeks ago with one of my sisters and her family. It had been probably 20 years since I'd done so, even though I've always enjoyed target practice.

I'd never shot more than a .22, but this time I also got my hands on a .38 Special, shot slugs from a shotgun my brother-in-law had, and tried out a .40 semiautomatic.

It was a lot of fun. One of my nephews' girlfriend came along, and even thought she had never fired a gun, she tried out a Beretta that my dad bought when he was in the service in Italy decades ago. She didn't like shooting, but she was game.

I have friends and family members who won't even have a gun in the house. I can understand that, but I'm not afraid of guns -- just respectful of what they can do. And I have no problem with reasonable gun control.

The question is: Whose definition of "reasonable" do we use?

This is where building upon thoughts and prayers is vital, and backing away from some extremists' "confiscate all guns from civilians" is key.

Action. We need action.

And the action we need is each side taking a step toward the other. We need leaders who will say to the other side, "Where can we meet in the middle?"

Instead of vilifying gun owners, those who lean toward more gun control should approach them and ask what they would consider "reasonable" ways to try to keep guns out of the hands of madmen.

Rather than looking down on those who cry out for additional restrictions on guns, NRA members and allies should propose what they think makes sense, and see where the two sides can come close to agreement. There has got to be some common ground here.

Above all, we have got to stop talking "at" each other and actually talk "to" each other, for crying out loud!

It seems people are quite good at arguing on Facebook, or throwing memes at each other, or tweeting barbs at the opposition. How about we try to do better as a human race in general?

If you've never fired a gun, have an instructor or a well-trained friend show you the basics. You might find that a semiautomatic is kind of fun for target practice.

If you can't imagine life without the guns in your safe, talk to a friend in the city, where the only imaginable reason to have any gun out of necessity is self-protection -- yet police are ready at hand to curb criminals.

My thoughts and prayers are with all victims of mass shootings in this country. But some of my prayers are that we, as a nation, take proper action to address gun control, mental health issues and other things that contribute to this epidemic. I'll do what I can to help with the effort and support compromise.

What will you do?

Penny Weaver is the associate publisher and editor of the JG-TC. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of the JG-TC. Contact her at or 217-238-6863, and follow her on Twitter @PennyWeaver.


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