Well, ho hum, Monday was just another day in this land of mass-murdering gun violence, where too many Americans take it for granted that the mounting death toll is the price we must pay to protect our right to bear arms.
Let's see. There were only 12 innocent and unsuspecting citizens at the Washington Navy Yard who this time could be sacrificed on the altar of the Second Amendment. After all, the shooter apparently only had a shotgun when he started the job, though he finished it with a weapon he'd taken from taken a security guard he'd shot and killed.
The fact that Aaron Alexis took out a cool dozen before he was shot in such a formidable armed military atmosphere should put a dent in the standard argument that if everyone was "carrying," he would have been pulled up short. Right! All those guards, and Alexis still could turn it into a massacre. And where were all those law-abiding "heat packers" in nearly every previous episode of mass killing?
Alexis, a 34-year-old contractor from Fort Worth, Texas, was described as a nice, quiet type. They often are -- before they snap at some perceived slight or unfair treatment and decide to make somebody, anybody, pay for the injustice. Yet there were warning signs: brushes with the law in two states, including a bullet fired into a neighboring apartment. And there were indications of something amiss in the mental-health histories of the Virginia Tech killer and the guy in the Colorado movie theater and the clearly disturbed kid who casually slew all those elementary school children in Newtown, Conn.
The president quickly got on the air to once again deplore the shootings. It's difficult to imagine anyone was listening, considering that his earlier effort to promote gun control and minimize tragedy got nowhere in a Congress that sure knows which side of its political bread is buttered. You can't blame Barack Obama for trying. There has been a mass shooting almost every month since he took office in 2009, The Washington Post reports, citing a new study commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Even a simple compromise expansion of background checks wouldn't fly in Congress, which is owned -- lock, stock and barrel -- by the National Rifle Association, thanks to four senators from the president's Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the NRA and some outraged Coloradans got so angry at two representatives in the state legislature for helping to adopt a strict new gun control measure following the July 2012 theater massacre, they voted this Sept. 10 to recall them.
After the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, security has been tightened at many schools to a level not seen outside areas with a totalitarian government.
But nothing seems to daunt the "love thy weapon" boys and girls who put their constitutionally mandated gun privileges above nearly anything else. That Alexis was initially armed with a shotgun -- a weapon whose sale and disbursal no one wants to impede -- will be key to the contention that no proposed control measure would have prevented his monstrous act. That may be true, but our passion for widespread access to firearms has some responsibility in this and other horrific events.
Almost as tragic as the actual shooting is the shoulder shrugging of Americans who have become inured to such events. Except for the media and law enforcement presence, life went on pretty much as normal only a relatively few hours after it took place even in the area where the Naval Yard is located. The Washington Nationals which play baseball a few blocks away cancelled their game the night of the shooting but were back at it the next day.
The firm belief that no relief will result from yet another demonstration of what can happen when everyone has access to instruments of death and destruction -- 300 million of them -- should please the NRA and its members. Whenever these occur, gun sales rise dramatically. How sick is that?
(Dan Thomasson is former editor of Scripps Howard News Service.)