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Posted by on Sep 18, 2013 in Crime, Featured, Guns, Politics | 2 comments

This time it hits home

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

WASHINGTON — Washington was under siege on Monday, with SWAT teams racing through the streets and military helicopters circling overhead. Not immediately threatened, however, was the complacency that allows our elected officials to argue endlessly about the threats we face rather than work together to lessen them.

“We are confronting yet another mass shooting,” President Obama said at midday, “and today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital.”

A few miles away at the historic Washington Navy Yard, authorities were just beginning to assess the carnage left by a gunman — or perhaps gunmen — who sprayed the halls of the Naval Sea Systems Command with semi-automatic weapons fire. Police at one point put the number of fatalities at 13, but the tally of dead and wounded kept changing throughout the afternoon.

Was this an act of terrorism, similar to the Fort Hood shootings or the Boston bombings? That theory advanced and receded during the day, amid conflicting reports of multiple assailants and speculation about possible motives.

Since no possibility could be quickly ruled out, all the old arguments about the nature of the “war on terror” were deemed in order. Obama’s supporters praise him for killing Osama bin Laden and smashing al-Qaeda to bits. Critics say that decentralized terrorism and “self-radicalized” individuals constitute an increasing menace. Both positions are more often used to score political points than to seek solutions.

Or was the Navy Yard rampage “just” another senseless multiple shooting, like so many others? During his presidency, Obama has mourned the victims and consoled the survivors of Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown. There was a weariness in his voice as he spoke of Navy personnel who had served bravely overseas yet “today … faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home.”

The one confirmed shooter — who died on the scene — was reportedly carrying at least three firearms. Following the unimaginable horror of Newtown, in which 20 children were slaughtered, Obama could not even convince Congress to mandate universal background checks for gun purchases, let alone take stronger measures to keep powerful weapons out of unstable hands.

Opponents of gun control argue that instead of infringing Second Amendment rights, we should focus on the fact that most, if not all, of these mass shooters are psychologically disturbed. But many of the officials who take this view are simultaneously trying their best to repeal Obamacare, which will provide access to mental health services to millions of Americans who are now uninsured.

So what difference did it really make what motivated Monday’s shooting? Beyond tightening security at military bases, what is our sclerotic political system capable of doing to prevent the next slaughter of innocents?

The shocking events in Washington eclipsed what otherwise would have been headline news from New York: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report providing “clear and convincing” evidence that chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria.

The report did not seek to ascribe blame. But it described the trajectory of rockets carrying nerve gas that were fired into a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, and this data strongly indicates the projectiles were fired by forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad. If ever there was doubt, none remains: Assad used poison gas to kill more than 1,400 civilians.

In a rare display of consensus, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., both favor passage of a resolution giving Obama the authority to launch a punitive strike against Assad. But neither congressional leader is able to convince his rank-and-file members to back military action.

Failing to decide, however, is a decision. The multiple conflicts that intersect in Syria — Assad versus rebels, Shiites versus Sunnis, Iran versus Saudi Arabia — have the potential to reshape the Middle East in ways that clearly will have an impact on U.S. national security. Whatever we do or decline to do, we will live with the consequences.

We don’t want to get involved in Syria. We don’t want to honestly assess where we are in the “war on terror.” We don’t want to deal with gun control. All these issues are fraught with political danger. Much safer for our intrepid elected officials to stake out their positions and yell at the other side, knowing the words will bounce off harmlessly. No progress made, no political damage done.

But the world doesn’t stop just because Washington does. Sometimes the issues our officials want to ignore hit tragically close to home.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is [email protected]

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Copyright 2013 The Moderate Voice
  • The_Ohioan

    That was Monday. This is Thursday.

    MSNBC is reporting on the massacre, victims, and shooter. And the possible government shutdown.

    FOX has Rep. Issa talking about the IRS “scandal”; others talking about Benghazi. And the possible government shutdown.

    And so it goes.

    Beyond tightening security at military bases, what is our sclerotic political system capable of doing to prevent the next slaughter of innocents?

    Not much. Unless the mental health care contained in the ACA affords new opportunities for those families who know they have members that are, or could be, dangerous. And unless police departments who encounter the mentally ill can do more than notify the person’s workplace that there’s a problem, as they did with Mr. Alexis. And unless that workplace can react quickly to avert another incident.

    Workplace shootings have been going on for centuries caused by love triangles or child custody battles. Usually only one or two persons are attacked, no matter the weapon. The combination of ever more complex societal interactions and the resulting extreme alienation of some members, combined with high powered weaponry, will give us more and more of these incidents until that society finally says “enough”.

    Expect a statement from the NRA next Monday, (that’s their limit for waiting – see Sandy Hook), reiterating their position.

  • sheknows

    Agree with T_O. How quickly our memories fade…or maybe it is just that we are not enough emotionally invested in these things. We have become a very desensitized society, obviously. One that can allow so many wrongs to go unrighted. Money talks and keeps the masses confused cloaking devices to keep their attention turned elsewhere.
    You will notice now how NSA “talks” from the government no longer are part of the news and the NSA can continue business as usual with just the occasional by line about another Snowden release swept under the rug.

    If Americans really wanted to get rid of guns, they would…plain and simple. When a small majority of the population is gay and can successfully pull off getting their rights recognized, and a large majority of Americans want gun laws changed and repealed it is more than obvious that what is needed is true commitment to your belief. If 4% can overcome obstacles, than 90% surely can…they are just too lazy.
    I am actually getting tired of hearing the same old NRA has too much power argument. BS. If people want to stop their legislators, let them do what they did about SYRIA…or was that just made up crap?

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