Navy Yard Shooting Talk Turns to Guns, Politics Before It’s Even Over

A U.S. Park Police helicopter removes a man in a basket from the Washington Navy Yard on Monday.
National Journal
Lucia Graves, Patrick Reis and Matt Vasilogambros
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Lucia Graves and Patrick Reis and Matt Vasilogambros
Sept. 16, 2013, 7:36 a.m.

The iden­tity of the Navy Yard shoot­er — or shoot­ers — was un­known. The cas­u­alty count re­mained in flux. There was no in­form­a­tion on what weapons were used or where they came from. But pun­dits were already up on their col­lect­ive soap­box.

A mem­ber of Rus­sia’s par­lia­ment­ary for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tee sought to cap­it­al­ize on the situ­ation, call­ing Monday’s tragedy “a clear con­firm­a­tion of “Amer­ic­an ex­cep­tion­al­ism.” Rus­sia’s par­lia­ment­ary for­eign af­fairs chief, Alexey Pushkov, tweeted out a string of in­sults, as Buzzfeed first re­por­ted:

“A new shootout at Navy headquar­ters in Wash­ing­ton — a lone gun­man and 7 corpses. Nobody’s even sur­prised any­more. A clear con­firm­a­tion of Amer­ic­an ex­cep­tion­al­ism.”

Новая стрельба у штаба ВМС в Вашингтоне - одинокий стрелок и 7 трупов. Никто уже не удивлен. Наглядное подтверждение “амер.исключительности”

— Алексей Пушков (@Alexey_Pushkov) Septem­ber 16, 2013

He went on to say the U.S. should part with the no­tion of Amer­ic­an ex­cep­tion­al­ism, ar­guing it “con­tra­dicts the prin­ciples of equal rights” and “smells of polit­ic­al ra­cism.” His gloat­ing comes after the White House op­ted to ac­cept a Krem­lin pro­pos­al to avert a strike on Syr­ia.

Mean­while, CNN con­trib­ut­or Dav­id Frum was quick to pivot to policy and at­tack pro-gun ad­voc­ates. 

Frum sar­castic­ally said “it’s im­port­ant that we re­spect the feel­ings of gun en­thu­si­asts”, fol­lowed by a list of satir­ic­al “rules of etiquette” to “help the post-shoot­ing con­ver­sa­tion to pro­ceed in ap­pro­pri­ate ways.”

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

— dav­id­frum (@dav­id­frum) Septem­ber 16, 2013

Rule 2: Gun crime in the pres­id­ent’s ho­met­own proves that guns any­where else are no fit top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion.

— dav­id­frum (@dav­id­frum) Septem­ber 16, 2013

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

— dav­id­frum (@dav­id­frum) Septem­ber 16, 2013

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

— dav­id­frum (@dav­id­frum) Septem­ber 16, 2013

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

— dav­id­frum (@dav­id­frum) Septem­ber 16, 2013

Frum’s tweets drew a sim­il­arly polit­ic­al re­sponse from Fox News com­ment­at­or Katie Pav­lich, who noted the shoot­ing happened in a gun-free zone. In past shoot­ings, gun-pro­lif­er­a­tion ad­voc­ates have said that gun con­trol policies — in­clud­ing gun-free zones — ex­acer­bate mass shoot­ings, by draw­ing as­sail­ants to areas where they do not ex­pect oth­ers to be armed.

In a gun free zone, again RT @dav­id­frum: An­oth­er mass cas­u­alty shoot­ing, this time at Wash­ing­ton Navy Yard. (1)

— Katie Pav­lich (@KatiePav­lich) Septem­ber 16, 2013

Dave Zir­in, the sports ed­it­or of The Na­tion, a lib­er­al magazine, sug­ges­ted that the lack of gun con­trol could have al­lowed the shoot­ing to take place.

Shoot­er(s) in Nav­al Yard re­por­ted to have AR-15s. In DMV, there’ve been con­stant ra­dio ads for people to buy AR-15s NOW b4 new regs come in.

— Dave Zir­in (@Edgeof­Sports) Septem­ber 16, 2013

No idea where/how shoot­er(s) got AR-15s but it’s eer­ie they’re us­ing the gun that com­mer­cials loc­ally are hard­core push­ing people to buy.

— Dave Zir­in (@Edgeof­Sports) Septem­ber 16, 2013

Jim Treach­er, a writer at the con­ser­vat­ive web­site The Daily Caller, mocked the idea that gun-con­trol policies can avoid mass shoot­ings.

Why is it that mass shoot­ings tend to hap­pen in places with the strict­est gun laws? In gun-free zones? And why aren’t we sup­posed to ask?

— Jim Treach­er (@jtLOL) Septem­ber 16, 2013

The con­ver­sa­tion has be­come a reg­u­lar com­pan­ion of Amer­ica’s mass shoot­ings, and its cycle has grown fa­mil­i­ar. Dur­ing the tra­gedies, most politi­cians prefer to re­main apolit­ic­al, con­fin­ing their re­marks to “sym­path­ies” or “thoughts and pray­ers.”

But among pun­dits, talk turns to polit­ics, with both sides of the gun con­trol de­bate launch­ing in­to everything from ar­gu­ments to vit­ri­ol.

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