People hold their hands to their heads as they are escorted out of the building where a gunman was reported at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. At least one gunman opened fire inside a building at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Updated: October 18, 2013 6:20AM
Let’s not rush to conclusions.
Nobody is sure quite yet what led to the massacre on Monday of at least 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
The killer could have been a homegrown terrorist. He could have been a nut.
Yes, that certainly seems like a sensible thing for a newspaper editorial to say.
But wait. We said that just five months ago, on April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Remember that one? Three people were killed and 264 people were injured.
Then how about this:
Monday’s shootings should shake America to its core. This is the moment to commit to ending America’s horrific gun violence. For how much longer will the Second Amendment trump all, leaving us defenseless and despondent? Is the best we can hope for luck — that the next shooting doesn’t hit our school, our street corner or mall?
No, sorry. We said that on Dec. 14, 2012, the day of the massacre at a grade school in Newtown, Conn.
Remember that one? Twenty children and six adults were killed.
So how about this:
Many commentators in the next few days will float the simple-minded but comforting notion that Monday’s massacre was the work of a “bad apple” — a monster produced entirely outside the American cultural mainstream.
That was precisely the cheap, instant analysis offered by many, in fact, when two teenagers went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999. At first, the two teens were portrayed as swastika-wearing racists who belonged to an alienated gang called the Trench Coat Mafia. It would be years before a more accurate profile of the killers — they were chillingly more mainstream — emerged.
But wait yet again. We said all that already, too, two days after the July 20, 2012, massacre in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
Remember that one? Twelve people were killed.
And, for that matter, remember Columbine? Twelve students and a teacher were killed.
We could go on, but you get our point and we don’t want to sound flip.
We are angry. And despairing.
The massacres keep coming. The morgues keep filling. The families of the victims keep crying. This president or that president keeps offering soft words of comfort and tough words of resolve.
“Whoever carried out this cowardly act” will be held responsible, President Obama said Monday, as he has said before.
And nothing gets better.
The dead gunman in the Navy Yards shooting has been identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, a former avionics electrician with the U.S. Navy. He reportedly had been arrested at least twice previously: once in Seattle for malicious mischief and once in Fort Worth for discharging a firearm in public.
Got that? He was picked up on a firearms violation.
And yet does anybody doubt that Alexis had no trouble at all obtaining the guns he used in Monday’s shooting?
Our cult of the gun continues. Our gun laws remain a joke. The daily carnage on our streets goes on.
At some point, all this hand-wringing in the wake of every new massacre had better lead to real action — beginning, as we always argue, with stricter gun laws — or please file away this editorial and give it another read in another week or another month or another year.
Every word will still be true and we’ll all still be spitting into the wind.