In the wake of another heart-wrenching episode of gun violence in Maine, America finds itself in a somber reflection, once again.

The new House Speaker, Mr. Johnson, voiced the sorrow and hope of many when he said, “This is a dark time in America… We have a lot of problems and we’re really, really hopeful and prayerful. Prayer is appropriate at a time like this — that the evil can end, and this senseless violence can stop.”

Yet, as the echoes of gunfire fade into the somber chants of prayers and hopes, I can’t help but recognize the glaring chasm between our hopes and actionable solutions and hope is not a strategy Mr. Speaker.

As a Navy SEAL, I’ve been intimately acquainted with firearms, understanding their destructive capabilities yet also respecting them as tools when placed in responsible hands.

The debate often veers towards the Second Amendment, a centuries-old provision that finds itself gasping for relevance in today’s dramatically evolved societal landscape. The intricacies of the Second Amendment in the modern era are a far cry from the black powder reality of 1791.

The heart of the matter extends beyond the constitutional debates to a more harrowing reality: the ease with which weapons of mass destruction find their way into the trembling hands of the mentally unstable. A bullet knows no discretion, and in unstable hands, it writes tales of horror we’re all too familiar with.

Most of these violent mass shootings are done by people with severe mental illness and what has America done to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable?

Malcolm Gladwell’s analysis of social epidemics in “The Tipping Point” sheds light on how little things can make a big difference. The gun violence epidemic is no different. It’s a cascade of many factors that include lax gun laws, stigmatization of mental health, and a society that has grown desensitized to violence. We are afraid to show tits on television but will gleefully show someone getting their brains splattered on the back seat of a car.

The confluence of these factors creates a torrent of violence that sweeps away lives in its current.

Hopes and prayers are the balm for a grieving nation, but they are not the salve to prevent the next tragedy. The earnest prayers of the hopeful must now transition into the resolute actions of the brave.

We need to elect better leaders in this country.

Navigating the current political landscape is like a disheartening dumpster dive, where both sides of the aisle seem to be rummaging through the debris of petty partisan politics, seemingly prioritizing point-scoring over actual problem-solving.

Our discourse needs to migrate from the pulpits to the policy tables, from hashtags of prayers to hashtags of change.

Only then can we stem the tide of this epidemic that threatens to become a defining characteristic of the American ethos.

In the immortal words of James Madison, “The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” However, this trust mandates an unyielding responsibility to ensure that the arms do not become instruments of terror amongst ourselves.

Our reflections post-tragedy must be more than ephemeral waves of sympathy. They should galvanize a nation towards meaningful action that transcends political allegiance and reinstates the sanctity of life as a paramount American value.

Let’s transition from a nation that prays in the aftermath to one that acts to prevent the before.