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Republicans, Democrats criticized over San Bernardino prayers and gun reform

Republican politicians offered their prayers and found criticism following the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shootings. Democrats promised reform and were accused of politicizing a tragedy.

Some have been accused of 'prayer shaming,' others of hypocrisy

Many U.S. politicians online offered their prayers, as did many everyday people, in the hours following Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people and wounded numerous others.

The politicians were often Republicans and generally more conservative figures who have been pushing against gun control legislation in the U.S. Congress. Many accused them of hypocrisy, saying that prayers alone could not solve the problem of gun violence in the United States. 

The New York Daily News's Wednesday newspaper ran the front-page headline "God Isn't Fixing This," highlighting the tweets of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan.

The first three politicians are Republican candidates for U.S. president, while Ryan is Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, which is dominated by Republicans. 

A journalist with political news blog Think Progress went a step further by highlighting politicians who had offered their prayers and yet had allegedly received funds from the National Rifle Association. The NRA lobbies for gun rights and to prevent regulation of guns by the government. 

These accusations were soon met with criticism of their own, referred to as "prayer shaming" by the Atlantic. Some began to feel that the response to prayers were becoming too all-encompassing a criticism, as if the prayers themselves were a sign of hypocrisy. 

"There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa," wrote Emma Green at the Atlantic. 

"That people who care about gun control can't be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence."

The sentiment was echoed online as people clarified that prayers on their own merit no criticism, but actions do.

 
 

On the other hand, while Republicans were quick to offer prayers, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidates for U.S. president, called for action against gun violence. 

"We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn't happen with the same frequency in other countries," said U.S. President Barack Obama in an interview with CBS. 

Statements like these led others to decry these more liberal-leaning politicians as politicizing the tragedy, especially in the wake of Democrats like U.S. Senator Chris Murphy who criticized those who prayed. 

Like the accusations comparing prayers to hypocrisy, saying any call to action was tantamount to using a tragedy for political gain was met with its own form of critique.

Many pointed out that given news outlets like the New York Times have found that on average, more than one mass shooting occurs each day in the U.S., there may be no ideal distance from a shooting to discuss gun violence. 

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