This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

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?

In the story that inspired the cover, Rich Schapiro contrasts the responses of presidential candidates to the shootings in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 dead. Democrats called for stricter gun-control laws and the GOP candidates did not. “Instead,” Schapiro wrote, “the Republicans were preaching about prayer.”

He’s factually, if only narrowly, correct. In my opinion, Schapiro also is on right on policy: When mass shootings become, statistically, a daily occurrence, regulating the public’s access to guns is not only responsible, it's constitutional.

Political leaders who do nothing about this scourge must be held accountable. So why does the Daily News cover make me wince?

First, Republicans are doing more than praying. They’re not doing nearly enough, from my vantage point, but if we’re going to move beyond verbal wars and actually start fixing this problem, the first step is to acknowledge the other side’s point of view. Understand it. Respect it. Then exploit it.

For example, couldn’t a smart group of gun-control advocates seize on the National Rifle Association’s talking point about mental health and work toward major reforms of the U.S. system?

Polls show widespread support, even among Republicans, for small steps like closing loopholes that weaken background checks and allow known terrorists to buy guns. Rather than surrender to the NRA’s cynical might, as President Obama and Democrats did after the Sandy Hook shootings, why not keep pressing?

I refuse to believe that for all of the smart and dedicated political strategists who support common-sense gun control, there’s no way to build a movement that competes politically and culturally with the NRA.

Which brings me to my second problem with the Daily News cover. Not only does it attack GOP presidential candidates (again, I’m all for that), it 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.

Think about it. Mockery is the last resort of an insecure person, usually a bully, who can’t get his or her way through more gentle persuasion. Read this paragraph from a story in the liberal Huffington Post on why children bully their peers.

We attack others in order to feel good, or at least belittle someone as a way of making ourselves look better; finding fault or putting them down makes us feel superior. This tends to happen more when we are down ourselves, as misery loves company; feel bad yourself and you invariably find fault in others.

Nailed it. The shootings in Paris, Colorado, and California made me miserable. I’m down on humanity today. Down on my nation, down on its leadership, and down on a large percentage of my fellow citizens who refuse to balance our right to bear arms against our right to regulate them.

Misery loves company, so why not rail about the impotency of prayer? Because it doesn’t work. And until we start electing leaders who work together to solve big problems, prayer may be all we’ve got.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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