Monday’s horrific attack on the Washington Navy Yard was still in progress when gun-control lunatics started trying to exploit it for political gain. Someone, or something, called “David Frum” began sending out a series of sarcastic Twitter messages mocking those who defend gun rights, earning the dubious distinction of becoming the first extremist to use dead people not as a soapbox to make an argument, but to lob snark grenades at the people he can’t defeat in an argument.
Later in the afternoon, Piers Morgan made a fool of himself by trying to “call out” the National Rifle Association because they hadn’t issued a statement while the bodies were still being counted – as if the NRA is somehow obligated to issue a snap response to every act of gun violence, as quickly as a ghoul like David Frum can exploit it, like rhetorical gunslingers holding a quick-draw ideological shootout. Of course, if the NRA had rushed to put out a statement, clowns like Morgan would have excoriated them for speaking so quickly, and wondered why they were feeling so defensive.
Morgan then proceeded to get the statistics for mass shootings wrong, insisting that such incidents have been “surging” since 2007 even though they have not, and doubling his folly by declaring that anyone who disagreed with him (i.e. knows the actual facts) is a “cynical liar.” Apparently ten minutes of Internet research is too much to ask before a CNN host shoots his mouth off. Another CNN host expressed astonishment at the notion of a shooting spree at a military base, and asked a field correspondent, on the air, if he’d ever heard of such a thing happening before. They really ought to have better editorial policies at a news network.
One good reason to withhold immediate comment during such a terrible event is that media coverage tends to be extremely confused. CBS and NBC incorrectly identified the gunman, then retracted their report and began frantically deleting Twitter references to it. Chuck Todd of NBC tried to palm off this inept reporting as a random act of Nature, as though a little tornado of misinformation had swept through the newsrooms: “The confusion over the shooter name had to do with an I.D. card found near the dead gunman; what led to bad initial reporting.”
You don’t suppose scoop-hungry reporters with loose editorial control, falling all over themselves to compete in a real-time online news market, might have had something to do with it, Mr. Todd? Gun-control activists could learn a few things from the NRA by keeping their rhetorical powder dry until the winds of shoddy snap reporting die down, and more sober media analysts can get a few facts nailed down.
But that’s not how the gun-control movement works. Its appeals are based entirely on emotional exploitation. Facts and sober contemplation are its adversaries. Gun controllers know they have to jump in while the echoes of gunfire can still be heard, belt out a few primal screams, collect a round of “hell yeah!” responses from their supporters, and demand hasty unconstitutional action from nervous Democrats who know that something like the Colorado recall election might be waiting for them, once reaction ends and thinking begins.
Since the American media hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory, let us turn to the British press for some hard information about the shooter, Aaron Alexis. The UK Telegraph offers this concise profile:
Alexis, 34, who was shot dead on Monday after killing 13 people at Washington’s Navy Yard, also carried a .45 handgun tucked in his trousers with no holster “everywhere he went” because he believed people would try to steal his belongings.
He also felt racially discriminated against, and believed he had been financially “screwed” over a contracting job in Japan at the end of last year, friends said.
The addiction to violent video games and guns was at odds with his devout commitment to Buddhism, which saw Alexis spending half the day every Sunday meditating at the Wat Busayadhammvanaram temple in Fort Worth, Texas over a period of several years. He also spent a month in Thailand in April, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Friends said he appeared to have a “chilled” personality and enjoyed watching American Football on television. He spent last Christmas Day singing karaoke and bursting into Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
The UK Daily Mail has details about previous violent outbursts from Alexis:
In 2004, Alexis was arrested in Seattle for shooting the tires of a construction worker’s car during what he later called an anger-fueled ‘blackout.’
‘He said that he didn???t remember pulling the trigger of his firearm until about one hour later,’ according to the Seattle police report.
Later he said that he felt the intended victim ‘disrespected’ him.
[…] He was arrested in relation to that incident but never charged, an outcome repeated in Fort Worth, Texas where Alexis was living in 2010.
Then, he was arrested for discharging a firearm when his neighbor reported that he fired a shot into her apartment. At the time, Alexis claimed that his hand slipped when he was cleaning his gun while cooking at the same time, and that he accidentally fired the weapon.
New reports also claim that Alexis was arrested for a second time in DeKalb county, Georgia and spent two nights in jail over a disorderly conduct charge but no further details have been released about that incident.
His best friend, who gave him a place to live in Texas for the past three years and helped him learn to speak Thai, said “he was always very nice to us. He had a couple of issues with being black.” Do you suppose we’ll be hearing a deafening media outcry about how race-baiters like Al Sharpton created a “Climate of Hate” that may have led to the shooting, they way they worked feverishly to link Tucson shooter Jared Loughner to a conservative movement he knew absolutely nothing about?
This man was clearly disturbed. His interests and spiritual pursuits were not the “cause” of his violence. His crime was not a failure of Buddhism, or video games, or “America’s gun culture.” His father says he’s been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder ever since assisting with rescue efforts on 9/11. He served in the Navy with distinction, winning the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, but was dismissed from the service for “misconduct” in 2011.
The only “national conversation” we should be having in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting is about detecting and treating mental illness. The rest of us should not be talking about changing our lives, much less surrendering our rights, to accommodate people with serious psychological problems. We should find them and help them, not give them veto power over the First and Second Amendments. A review of his history makes it somewhat puzzling that Alexis was able to purchase any firearm legally, but that sounds like a discussion about the enforcement of our existing gun laws, not writing a pile of new laws that restrict everyone. Alexis’ history also makes it difficult to argue that he would have lived out his days in peaceful meditation if he hadn’t been able to get his hands on a gun.
We might also consider this incident in combination with the Fort Hood shooting (so hazy in the memory of certain CNN hosts) and ask whether it was a good idea for President Bill Clinton to order military bases to become gun-free zones. According to current reports – which, we should acknowledge, may be subject to change – Alexis began his rampage by firing on security forces with a shotgun (approved, and indeed recommended, as a self-defense weapon by no less than Vice President Joe Biden) and then picking up their firearms to continue his killing spree. Will the gun-control extremists recommend disarming security teams as well? Or call for outlawing shotguns, presumably after VP Biden tenders his resignation and sorrowfully apologizes for promoting them? A gun-free zone in the middle of a city with some of the nation’s toughest gun laws still doesn’t have enough gun laws?
Update: More about Alexis’ state of mind, from the Associated Press:
U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said. Alexis had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation in the case was continuing.
The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.
Family members told investigators Alexis was being treated for his mental issues.
Doubtless we’ll learn more about that treatment program in the days to come. It seems odd that someone with a history of violent behavior, dismissed from the Navy for misconduct and undergoing treatment, could retain his security clearance.
Update: The mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, leaps into action and blames the Navy Yard shooting on… the sequester. Which, as my good friend Jammie Wearing Fool points out, means that by extension he’s blaming it on the man who created and insisted upon sequestration, President Barack Obama.