The chaplain who leads prayers in the US Senate said on Tuesday: “When babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers.”
Barry C Black was referring to the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday, in which three nine-year-olds and three adults were killed. The shooter was killed by police.
Since the shooting, Democrats from Joe Biden down have urged meaningful gun control reform, including an assault weapons ban.
Many Republicans, opposed to gun regulation, have offered thoughts and prayers instead.
The House majority leader, Steve Scalise, who survived a shooting at congressional baseball practice in 2017, was among those to offer prayers.
He also told reporters: “I really get angry when I see people trying to politicise it for their own personal agenda, especially when we don’t even know the facts.
“It just seems like on the other side, all [Democrats] want to do is take guns away from law-abiding citizens before they even know the facts … and that’s not the answer, by the way.”
Other Republicans, including the Missouri senator Josh Hawley, have called for a hate crimes investigation, given the target of the shooting was a Christian school.
From the chief of Nashville police to the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, authorities have said the motive is not yet known.
In the Senate, Black said: “Remind our lawmakers of the words of the British statesman Edmund Burke: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.’
“Lord, deliver our senators from the paralysis of analysis that waits for the miraculous. Use them to battle the demonic forces that seek to engulf us. We pray, in your powerful name, amen.”
Since becoming Senate chaplain in 2003, the retired rear admiral has not shied from controversy.
In 2012, he participated in a “Hoodies on the Hill” rally in protest of the killing of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager shot dead in Florida.
In 2013, during a government shutdown caused by the Texas Republican Ted Cruz, Black used a prayer to refer to “madness” and “the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable”.
In 2020, at the opening of Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, he urged senators to remember “that patriots reside on both sides of the aisle”.
On Tuesday, Black told the Washington Post: “I am a human being who is reacting to the horrific [events in Nashville] that all Americans, most Americans, are seeing. And this has been a priority of mine that we do better at attempting to solve this problem.
“… I am calling for problem solving – that’s what is accurate to say. And however that is done, let’s get it done.”
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