This originally ran in San Antonio Express-News on Monday, October 16, 2017.
A nation’s response to a tragedy is a telling sign of the heart of its people.
Our nation is reeling from recent events. On Oct. 1, innocent concert-goers in Las Vegas became victims of one of the most heinous, senseless acts of violence our nation has ever seen. More recently, violence struck in our own state when a 19-year-old Texas Tech University student fatally shot a police officer.
Texas leadership immediately offered their heartfelt condolences and prayers. Gov. Greg Abbott stated, “Texas mourns and prays for the victims of this tragedy, and the entire Las Vegas community, in this time of unimaginable pain.”
I also reached out to the Nevada Republican Party leadership to see how Texans could offer assistance to their hurting people.
As the victims in Vegas were still being counted, I was disappointed to see Democrats attacking Republicans who believe in the constitutionally protected right to own and bear arms. A CBS executive made the heartless statement that the concert-goers did not deserve sympathy, as they were likely Republicans, and was promptly fired.
Following the shooting at Texas Tech, the Democratic Party of Texas sent out a tweet blaming concealed carry on college campuses, ignoring the fact that the murderer was already ineligible for a concealed carry license, and forcing it to send a correction with an apology.
When tragedies strike, such as what we saw in Las Vegas and Texas Tech University, this is not the time for divisiveness. We should grieve with our fellow man and never become callous to the loss of life by any means. We should desire to comfort the hurting and to serve them.
Tragedies should never be politicized by our leaders. That only increases the pain and hinders the healing.
It is equally important in times like these to not allow heightened emotions to dictate policy when it could have lasting negative effects on our rights. The most basic, God-given right is the right to life, and the right to defend life must be protected.
As Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, himself a victim of a mass shooting, said recently, “The problem is not that there are too many guns. It’s that there are people that will go out and break the law, whether it’s a gun or some other weapon or a bomb.”
Scalise continued, “The only thing that gets reported are the tragedies. But it rarely gets reported when somebody actually uses their Second Amendment right with a gun to protect themselves against a criminal.”
What we experienced as a nation these past few weeks was terrible and tragic. At this time, motives for the two senseless acts of violence remain unknown. What is known is that the loss of life is always a tragedy, with real, grieving families affected.
We can and will respond with compassion by reaching out in any way we can to help heal the hurting. We extend our heartfelt condolences to those affected by these horrific acts.
We will also respond with truth by honoring the constitutionally protected right of the people to keep and bear arms, which serves a necessary purpose. Not only is it the right by which all other rights are protected, it also makes us more secure in a world where people would do harm to others.
James Dickey is chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and former chairman of the Travis County Republican Party.