Another day in America and another mass shooting. This time, at least one gunman armed with three firearms killed 12 people and wounded others at the Washington Navy Yard.The gunman also was killed.
Now comes the ritual with which Americans are too familiar: an explosion of media coverage exploring what happened and telling the story of the alleged shooter identified as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old Navy veteran and what might have motivated him. Then comes another round in the debate over gun control in a nation armed to the teeth, a nation seemingly incapable of keeping a few of those weapons from people who are mentally unstable and bent on a bizarre crusade of vengeance against innocent people.
This time, though, the pattern of mass shootings has taken a symbolic turn. The shots on Monday erupted just blocks from the Capitol where the National Rifle Association has managed to block bills proposing significant changes in the nations gun laws. And it comes just days after the gun rights movement in Colorado a state that has endured a high school slaughter in Columbine and a movie audience raked with gunfire in Aurora successfully recalled from office two state senators who backed a successful effort to strengthen gun laws.
Faith in safety
The resistance to gun control is driven by a combination of money from U.S. gun manufacturers and a fervent belief among some gun owners that assault-style rifles and easily obtained handguns increase the safety of American citizens. But two of the recent mass shootings, one at Fort Hood in Texas and Mondays event, took place within military facilities where there was no shortage of guns. The area that was targeted by the Navy Yard gunman was part of the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command.About 3,000 people work at the headquarters, many of them civilians, but there were armed guards and military personnel authorized to carry weapons.
The aspect of an attack on military personnel was on the mind of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader who successfully led efforts to block new gun laws in April. He said in a statement that, The men and women in our military courageously put their lives on the line in many dangerous places around the world. Its painful for all of us to think about them having to worry about their safety when they come home, too.
Now the shootings have come home, or nearly so, to Congress and the lawmakers who do the will of the NRA. The Senate and its adjacent office buildings were locked down Monday.
But there is little reason to hope that the proximity of Americas latest mass murder will change the minds of enough lawmakers to make a difference. If the carnage at Sandy Hook with its toll of six adults and 20 first-graders was not enough, this wont be, either. Some new laws strengthening gun control passed in Democratically controlled states after Sandy Hook, but some Republican-controlled states including North Carolina instead relaxed limits on guns and where they can be carried.
Perversely, the Navy Yard shootings likely will bring another wave of gun purchases by people who fear that something might now be done about easy access to high-powered weapons. They need not run out to buy guns. Monday was a terrifying day in a corner of the nations capital, but it was also just another day in America.