It has been more than a week since Pope Francis' visit to the United States, and I'm still on a high — or at least I'm trying to remain there.
I am clinging to the pope's global message of humility, humanity, and doing for the least of these. But like the fading memory of the best rock concert ever, it's hard to hold on the inspirational notes. Especially this week.
Two weeks ago, I was drawn to our den television — eager to watch the wall-to-wall coverage of this one man so incomprehensibly good.
Last week I was dragged to that same TV — anxious to learn the senseless details of yet another one so incomprehensibly disturbed.
Watching Pope Francis, I was beaming at the TV, joyfully crying at the power of his simple acts, whether kissing a baby or embracing a prisoner. I could not turn away.
This past weekend, the feeling could not have been more different. I watch with my jaw clenched in horror and outrage at the acts of one so isolated and deranged, who massacred nine people and injured seven others at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. I frequently turned away or turned it down — head shaking in disbelief.
There have been 45 school shootings in the United States this year, according to the organization Everytown for Gun Safety. About 33,000 people die each year of gun violence in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. That's 92 people a day, or 10 Oregons daily.
And what is the response of those who lead and those who would lead?
President Obama: "America will wrap everyone who's grieving with our prayers and our love. ... But just as I said a few months ago … our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough. It does not capture the grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America. ... We are collectively answerable to those families."
Contrast that with the "stuff happens" caucus of GOP presidential contenders.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: "Look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something and it's not always the right thing to do."
Donald Trump: "No matter what you do — you have guns, you have no guns — it doesn't matter. You have people who are mentally ill and they're gonna come through the cracks and they are going to do things that people will not even believe are possible."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich: "I don't believe gun control would have stopped this."
Former CEO Carly Fiorina: "So before we start calling for more laws I think we ought to consider why we don't enforce the laws we have."
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson: "Gun control only works for normal, law-abiding citizens. It doesn't work for crazies."
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: "I can tell you that I always find it interesting that the reflexive reaction of the left is to say we need more gun laws."
The reflexive reaction of those who would lead is not outrage for our fellow human beings — it is calculating, cowardly inaction. It is the reflexive reaction to carry the water of the gun lobby and gun manufacturers at the price of losing one's soul.
I am stunned by the lack of humanity, the lack of compassion, the lack of urgency to prevent carnage. And if this rote, measured, soulless reaction is not a disqualifier of a presidential candidate, I do not know what is.
Something can be done.
In the absence of changes to our federal laws, there are things we can and must do at the state level, like closing the loopholes in background check laws, as called for in Pennsylvania's House Bill 1010. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, background checks blocked more that 2.4 million people, including domestic abusers, convicted felons, and the mentally ill, from buying guns from 1994 to 2012.
We could pass gun-violence restraining order legislation. In each of the last three national shootings — Charleston, Roanoke, and now Roseburg — the suspects may not have had a diagnosis of mental illness, but had shown very real signs of instability.
States can pass gun-violence restraining order laws, such as Pennsylvania's House Bill 1030, which would give family members or friends the chance to petition the court to temporarily take guns away from someone who may not have a mental diagnosis but is clearly in extraordinary and dangerous distress. This is an important "see something—say something measure."
Two weeks ago, I was enthralled as the Philadelphia Boys Choir performed for a man of moral courage. This week, I am appalled by the hapless choir of Republican candidates performing for the NRA. Haven't we all had enough?
State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Montgomery) represents the 153rd District. email@example.com