Navy Yard shootings: No shift in guns debate coming

A flag flies at half-mast over the White House (16 September 2013) On Monday, a flag flew at half-mast over the White House, where Obama mourned what he called "yet another mass shooting"

I'm standing in front of a yellow police cordon, the flashing lights of emergency vehicles in the background. The locations change, but the question from the presenters in London is as predictable as it is understandable.

"Will this tragedy make a difference to the debate on gun control?" The short and blunt answer: "No."

Certainly the murders at the Navy Yard will give fresh impetus to a very old debate.

As I write I hear a trail for a discussion on NPR radio. Even as President Barack Obama paid tribute to those killed, you could hear that he had made up his mind that this was no terrorist attack but yet another example of out of control gun violence.

But one thing is missing from this debate - open minds.

The assumption in Britain is that another shocking mass murder will make people more open to gun control. But the debate is so emotional, so partisan that the two sides are already lined up in two hostile camps. Those who are against gun control will point out that Washington DC has some of the toughest laws in the country.

Even before he opened fire, Aaron Alexis was probably breaking the law already by carrying guns.

Gun control opponents will argue that making more laws for him to break would not have stopped the crime. Some will make the argument that if more workers had guns the gunman would have been killed sooner and fewer would have died.

It is worth remembering that the jolting, sickening shock of the Sandy Hook killing of children just before Christmas did seem to change the debate, just a little.

But the wave of passion ebbed away within months. Mr Obama used it to launch a political campaign for new laws. He called for what some would regard as very small changes - a ban on military-style assault rifles and a background check for all gun buyers (at the moment sales at gun shows are excluded).

Those proposals aren't quite formally dead, but they are languishing with little apparent chance of revival. This shooting may change that, but I would be very surprised.

The real point may not be legal, but cultural.

Alexis had twice in the past shot in the general direction of people who had irritated him. Tyres and ceilings were thankfully the only casualties.

But in some countries that would mean he would not be allowed to own a gun and might have ended up in prison for a fairly long time.

Here, particularly in Texas, it is not that big a deal.

Hard as it is to change the law, it is much harder to change attitudes.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Worst thing of all was that they didn't catch the person or people who had the guns and were shooting people

    Luckily the shot people and a person assaulted unconscious were rescued by police, even though gang members tried to stop the police
    from helping them

    No one will say no to money college grants from violent neighborhoods even though our police force is too small to deal w/ city gangs

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Apparently, after gunman's paranoid behaviour last month, & police involvement

    Since he told Rhode Island police he was a Navy contractor, they sent report to Navy Police [sic?], who said they'd deal w/ it.
    Nothing happened, so either the Naval Police didn't do anything, or they checked but didn't revoke his security clearance.

    Can't remember link,will check.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    For us locals there are very poor people here but there are no gangs

    For these people from poor neighborhoods of South side of Chicago and East St Louis, gangs are a way of life so many carry guns

    We have completely different cultures, a town of mostly white rural people now being mixed with mostly black city people
    b/c they are the only people who can afford to go to college anymore

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    @413.margaret howard
    349 msc
    "use firearms to protect ourselves&livestock frm coyotes"
    African farmers like the Maasai have to protect their livestock from more formidable predators like lions yet they don't have guns for it
    P'haps in the past,but they &similar tribes now often arm themselves against poachers.
    Also, is average Western farmer as physically fit as a Masai,or can wield a spear?:-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    ref #413 and 415
    I'm amazed the ignorance on the gun issue by vietnam liberal among the most ignorant and iflexible bunch in our history .

    FYI the Tea Party has no position on the gun issue unless it is a tax issue.

    And I'll tak e the Tea Party member rationality and self awarness than a Vietnam war liberal like Bill ayers or Bernadette Doren


Comments 5 of 424



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