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Tar Heel View: New rampage raises gun issues again

From the News and Observer

September 18, 2013

Another day in America and another mass shooting. This time, one gunman killed 12 people and wounded others at the Washington Navy Yard. The gunman also was killed.


Now comes the ritual with which Americans are too familiar: an explosion of media coverage exploring what happened and telling the story of the alleged shooter — identified as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old Navy veteran — and what might have motivated him. Then comes another round in the debate over gun control in a nation armed to the teeth, a nation seemingly incapable of keeping a few of those weapons from people who are mentally unstable and bent on a bizarre crusade of vengeance against innocent people.


This time, though, the pattern of mass shootings has taken a symbolic turn. The shots on Monday erupted just blocks from the Capitol where the National Rifle Association has managed to block bills proposing significant changes in the nation’s gun laws. And it comes just days after the gun rights movement in Colorado — a state that has endured a high school slaughter in Columbine and a movie audience raked with gunfire in Aurora — successfully recalled from office two state senators who backed a successful effort to strengthen gun laws. …


The resistance to gun control is driven by a combination of money from U.S. gun manufacturers and a fervent belief among some gun owners that assault-style rifles and easily obtained handguns increase the safety of American citizens. But two of the recent mass shootings, one at Fort Hood in Texas and Monday’s event, took place within military facilities where there was no shortage of guns. …


But there is little reason to hope that the proximity of America’s latest mass murder will change the minds of enough lawmakers to make a difference. If the carnage at Sandy Hook with its toll of six adults and 20 first-graders was not enough, this won’t be, either. Some new laws strengthening gun control passed in Democratically controlled states after Sandy Hook, but some Republican-controlled states — including North Carolina — instead relaxed limits on guns and where they can be carried.


Perversely, the Navy Yard shootings likely will bring another wave of gun purchases by people who fear that something might now be done about easy access to high-powered weapons. They need not run out to buy guns. Monday was a terrifying day in a corner of the nation’s capital, but it was also just another day in America.