Editorial: Tragedies getting tedious

21:39, Sep 17 2013

Another mass shooting amid the land of the free, conducted by yet another citizen with anger management problems and ample hardware to help him express them.

Washington's navy yard death toll of 13 seems almost modest compared to, say, Sandy Hook Elementary School, with its 20 children and six teachers stretched out dead last December. Now that was a memorable massacre, eclipsing the Columbine school toll of 12 students and one teacher.

In the drenched annals of recent US history, this latest killing is not particularly distinguished from the rapidly fading memory of the Aurora cinema shooting that claimed 12 people watching a Batman movie, except perhaps for the fact that this new one happened in a military facility, so the the dead were promptly lamented as patriots.

The Washington shooting was only a couple of kilometres away from the Capitol Building, the centre of government. Or government as usual, when it comes to the avoidance of gun control.

This year the US Senate was persuaded that the Sandy Hook case was, in common with so many others, not really itself a compelling reason to introduce gun control, nor a useful part of any big picture that anyone with any down- home sense could make out. No sir. Just one of those terr'ble things that keep happening, and against which people can only arm themselves all the more, and pray good'n hard.

So the Senate voted down a measure to expand background checks for gun buyers, this representing an intolerable state intrusion into the lives of good decent folk in spite of what the president and, according to polls, a majority of Americans, wanted.


What ended up mattering was that when it comes to political manoeuvering, there seems to have been no way around the bloc represented by the National Rifle Association and its call on the fiercely beating hearts of American gun owners.

The NRA was even able to counter Sandy Hook sentiment once it was overtaken by the subsequent Boston marathon bombing which had police searching for suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev. That guy was a terrorist, see? Far scarier than rogue citizens armed to the armpits. With police going door to door and a terrorist on the loose, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre presented the taunt: how many Bostonians wished they had a gun then?

You want a big picture: "Lying in wait, right now, is a terrorist, a deranged school shooter, a kidnapper, a rapist,a murderer, waiting and planning and plotting in every community across our country, lying in wait right now," Mr LaPierre thundered.

In every community?

The US faces another period of post-bloodshed angst, and trying to get posthumously into the head of a gunman, where it will find pretty much the same componentry it has been finding for ages.

Meanwhile, there will also be a pained public inquiry into the death of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed and athletic black man who crawled out the window of his crashed car and, seeking help, hammered on the door of a North Carolina home about 2.30am. The homeowner shut the door on him and called the police who, when he lumbered towards them, Tazered him and then shot him. Ten times. Perhaps the NRA will step forward to explain that if only Ferrell had a weapon of his own, he might have had a fair chance.

The Southland Times