At a time when many people are fed up with the empty “thoughts and prayers” of politicians after every mass shooting, a Republican congressional candidate is doubling down and arguing that making thoughts and prayers more regular would perhaps be a solid step toward solving the problem.
The country would not be experiencing so many mass shootings if it had not “deteriorated to this point morally,” said conservative Republican Steve Lonegan, who is running to represent the GOP in New Jersey’s 5th congressional district.
He made the statements in a Thursday radio interview on the Kevin McCullough Show, which Democratic opposition research group American Bridge first spotted.
Lonegan added that he would be a “big advocate” for returning prayer to the classroom.
“My own wife has been a Catholic school teacher now for 37 years, and they have to do drills for this kind of a purpose ― how to shut down the classrooms,” he said. “It’s just so disturbing that society has deteriorated to this point morally that we’re confronted with this. And if there’s ever a time to return prayer to the classroom, now’s the time. That’s something I would be a big advocate for. Fortunately in my wife’s school they have prayer in the classroom.”
It’s not that people are against receiving thoughts and prayers. Victims and their families are frustrated that politicians ― who have the power to do more, such as enact meaningful gun violence reform ― do nothing but offer thoughts and prayers.
On average, two dozen children are shot every day in the United States.
Seventeen people died in Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Some of the students at the school tweeted their frustration this week at their political leaders.
the kids are better than us pic.twitter.com/D1Is2hNDm2
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) February 15, 2018
Fuck you. We don’t need your fucking prayers. GET BETTER GUN CONTROL. https://t.co/5JtH9wtJz5
— kyra (@longlivekcx) February 14, 2018
President Donald Trump delivered on Thursday prepared remarks about the Parkland shooting, saying that he and the nation were “praying for the victims and their families.”
Lonegan said he approved of Trump’s speech.
“I think the president handled it perfectly addressing the country’s children. I think that was just appropriate,” he said.
Earlier that day, however, Trump also implied that the students at the school were partially to blame for what happened at the school.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
Lonegan is a former mayor in New Jersey and ran unsuccessfully for Senate against Democrat Cory Booker in a 2013 special election. In that race, he faced significant criticism for saying it was “weird” that Booker wouldn’t talk more about his sexual orientation.
“As a guy, I personally like being a guy. I don’t know if you saw the stories last year. They’ve been out for quite a bit about how he likes to go out at three o’clock in the morning for a manicure and a pedicure,” Lonegan said at the time.
In his current congressional run, Lonegan has the backing of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). He’s running against attorney John McCann for the GOP nomination to unseat Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) in the general election.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.