Opening Prayer For the Colorado State House in the Aftermath of a Tragedy, February 15, 2018

Our God and God of all people,
God of the Rich and God of the poor.
God of the teacher and God of the student.
God of the families who wait in horror.
God of the dispatcher who hears screams of terror from under bloodied desks.
God of the first responder who bravely creeps through ravaged hallways.
God of the doctor who treats the wounded.
God of the rabbi, pastor, imam or priest who seeks words of comfort but comes up empty.
God of the young boy who sees his classmates die in front of him.
God of the weeping, raging, inconsolable mother who screams at the sight of her child’s lifeless body.
God of the shattered communities torn apart by senseless violence.
God of the legislators paralyzed by fear, partisanship, money and undue influence.
God of the Right.
God of the Left.
God who hears our prayers.
God who does not answer.
On this tragic day when we confront the aftermath of the 18th School shooting in our nation on the 46th day of this year, I do not feel like praying.
Our prayers have not stopped the bullets.
Our prayers have changed nothing.
Once again, a disturbed man with easy access to guns has squinted through the sights of a weapon, aimed, squeezed a trigger and taken out his depraved anger, pain and frustration on innocents: pure souls. Students and teachers. Brothers and sisters. Mothers and fathers- cut down in an instant by the power of hatred and technology.
We are guilty, O God.
We are guilty of inaction.
We are guilty of complacency.
We are guilty of allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by politics.
The blood of our children cries out from the ground.
The blood of police officers cut down in the line of duty flows through our streets.
I do not appeal to You on this terrible morning to change us. We can only do that ourselves.
Our enemies do not come only from far away places.
The monsters we fear live among us.
May those in this room who have the power to to make change find the courage to seek a pathway to sanity and hope.
May we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.
Only then will our prayers be worthy of an answer.
~Rabbi Joe Black

You Can’t Blame Gun Control Issues on the Mentally Ill

sofia-sforza-90360I have a mental illness. I have depression. I have anxiety.

I do NOT kill people.

Mental illness is not the reason innocent lives are being taken senselessly — guns are.

As someone with a mental illness, I take great offense when people try to blame lack of gun control on people who have a disability. I understand that stable people do not think shooting innocent people is okay. However, it is not fair to demonize a community that is more likely to suffer violence than inflict it.

The phrase, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is not entirely true. People who have access to an arsenal of weapons kill people. We don’t know the exact state of mind of these people, but we do know this — they had guns.

This was not meant to be a political essay or a commentary on gun control, but whatever gets the job done.

I am not going to list all the countries that have stricter gun control policies than the United States.  The research and statistics are out there for people to read. And if you read it, you’ll see the answer is pretty clear.

Do we have a mental illness problem in the U.S.? Yes.

Do we have a gun control problem in the U.S.? Yes.

Our community is misunderstood and marginalized enough as it is. We do not need to be scapegoated for a bigger problem that has nothing to do with the majority of us.

A very large percentage of the mentally ill are not violent. Please don’t push your misinformation and prejudices on us to distract from the bigger issue at hand.

The bottom line is that innocent lives were lost yet again. Again. I cannot bear to sit here and watch pictures flash across the screen of innocent victims, some only 14 years of age, and not cringe and shake my head in disbelief. It’s sad and heartbreaking and it’s outrageous…and it’s preventable. Not by demonizing the mentally ill, but by stricter gun control laws.

And while we are at it, let’s get more funding for out patient mental health. Let’s get more funding for mental health services in schools and workplaces.

The fact of the matter is that NOTHING is being done to help innocent victims — both the victims of gun violence and the mentally ill.

Our government has in the past and will try again in the future, to cut funding for mental health and addiction services. Right now, our government is doing nothing to stop gun violence and enact stricter gun control laws.

The problem is not with the mentally ill.