Navy Yard shooting a time for gun control, not just prayer


There is no mass shooting devastating enough, disgusting enough or shocking enough that the U.S. Congress would be moved to enact reasonable gun legislation like the measures proposed in April by President Obama after 20 first-graders were mowed down last year in Newtown, Conn.

And there never will be.

Monday, another mass shooting took place in America. It’s still unclear how many in total have died, but according to officials, as least 12 people were shot to death at the Navy Yard, the oldest naval base in the country, in a gentrified part of Washington, D.C. Authorities identified the gunman as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old African American man who worked as a civilian contractor at the site and was wearing military-style clothing.

The conservative columnist David Frumbrought down a Twitter load of outrage on his head when he tweeted to his 96,000 followers, shortly after after the Navy Yard shootings, five rules about mass shootings.


Frum, a naturalized American citizen who was born in Canada, identifies himself as a conservative Republican. He is not a fan of guns. Here are his rules:

Rule 1: It is “ghoulish” to suggest in any way that the easy availability of guns might in any way enable gun slaughter.

Rule 2: Gun crime in the president’s hometown proves that guns anywhere else are not a fit topic of conversation.

Rule 3: All gun owners are to be complimented as responsible and law-abiding citizens until they personally have hurt themselves or somebody else.

Rule 4: Any attempt to stop mass casualty shootings is “political.” Allowing them to continue is “non-political.”

Rule 5: Gun ownership is essential to freedom, as in Serbia & Guatemala. Gun restrictions lead to tyranny, as in Australia & Canada.

With perfect Orwellian irony, Frum has distilled the essence of the pro-gun lobby response each time another workplace, schoolyard, movie theater or place of worship is turned into an abattoir by a murderous soul — almost always a white male — with a semiautomatic gun. (The Navy Yard shooting, by the way, is the country’s 79th mass shooting since 1983. According to the Congressional Research Service, a “mass shooting” is defined as one that takes place in a relatively public place and includes four or more deaths, not including the gunman’s.)

Rule 2, in case you are wondering, is a reference to the tendency of gun advocates to complain, nonsensically, that the president has no right to push gun control measures because he has “ignored” gun violence in Chicago, his hometown.

As you can imagine, reaction among gun lovers was not kind. The theme of criticism essentially boiled down to this: Now is a time to pray, not a time to discuss gun regulation.

“Servicemen lay dying in Washington with a shooter on the move,” wrote Erick Erickson on his influential Red State blog. “Then David Frum started up with anti-gun nonsense. As a shooter roamed the Navy Yard … and as people who worked there were dead or dying or bleeding, David Frum became a twitter stream about gun control — comparing America to Third World countries.”

First of all, what Frum wrote is not nonsense. He’s right on the mark.

I’d humbly suggest that now — while the blood is still fresh on the ground and the horror still with us — is exactly the right time to point out the insanity of American gun culture and the reflexively obnoxious move by the NRA and its supporters to stifle not just rational gun control legislation but debate.

After Newtown, when it seemed all but certain for a brief moment that President Obama had the congressional support he needed to pass reasonable gun legislation, the NRA and its pawns tried to shut up the families of those first-graders who were killed by Adam Lanza by accusing them of being too emotional, or of having no stake in the discussion. One talk-show host/gun advocate said they should “go to hell” — as if they weren’t in hell already.

But the measure to expand background checks for weapons purchased at gun shows and online went down to defeat in the Senate last April anyway. “This is a pretty shameful day for Washington,” the president said then.

And, as it turns out, when you are the NRA or in its pocket, there is never a “right time” to talk about rational gun measures.

So here we are again, another mass shooting in the news, another moment when gun control advocates must once again lean into the fray and not allow themselves be intimidated by people who would rather offer a prayer for the dead than do anything to prevent more killing.


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Twitter: @robinabcarian