Yesterday, we were treated to the news of yet another mass shooting. Reports say that around 8:15 AM, Aaron Alexis walked into Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard and started shooting. Within a few minutes, police units had entered and engaged Alexis in a firefight, killing him. But, not before he killed as many 12 people and wounded somewhere around a dozen others. As usual, things are still cloudy and all the details aren’t known. But, we know enough; at least 12 people weren’t here to see the sun rise this morning. But, that’s only part of why I’m sad.
I’m sad because these folks haven’t been gone a day and people are already politicizing things. I’ve already seen an article from Media Matters talking about how the “right-wing” media is attempting to use the shooting to push for weaker gun laws. The article listed tweets from a couple of conservative journalists saying (or asking if) Washington DC is a “gun-free” zone. Their implication, as Media Matters so heavy-handedly pointed out, is that this wouldn’t have happened if only more people had been armed. Were the tweets crass and in bad taste? Probably, but no more so than Media Matters gleefully pointing them out. But, that’s only part of why I’m sad.
I’m sad because, as this story plays out, we’re going to hear plenty from both sides about whether armed civilians could’ve stopped this attack. But, the simple fact is, we don’t know. Sure, history says having armed civilians on site doesn’t make a difference, but that’s history, not the present. It is possible that someone with a weapon could have found themselves in a position to stop Alexis’ rampage. Of course, it’s also possible that I could’ve won any of the Powerball drawings since they started here in NC. And, the chance of either happening is about the same. Well, maybe the someone stopping the shooter has a slight edge, since I’ve never actually bought a ticket for the lottery. You get my point, though. The fact tht no one on either side will listen to what the other has to say is depressing. But, that’s only part of why I’m sad
I’m sad because people will be talking about the gun culture that exists in America. And, they’ll be right; we are obsessed with guns. I’m a pretty liberal guy and even I like guns and enjoy shooting. In fact, right after I read about the Navy Yard incident, I saw an article about a couple of modifications that would allow you to have what amounts to a legal machine gun. Like the author of the piece, I was torn since I desperately want one (because it’s a MACHINE GUN!!!), yet I’m haunted by the apparition of yet another dark-clad, suicidal nut walking the halls of yet another school, using something like this to blast everything that moves. The knowledge that this cultural obsession all but guarantees tragedies like these will happen again is disheartening, to say the least. But, that’s only part of why I’m sad.
Most of all, I’m sad because no matter what is said in the wake of this tragedy, the dead, the wounded and their families are going to take a backseat to whatever axe each speaker has to grind. Unless, of course, their pain can be used to advance the speaker’s cause. Then, they’ll take center stage. And, that’s why I’m really sad.