At 8:15 a.m. on Monday, September 16, the first call came into the police dispatcher of Washington D.C. that a gunman, later identified as Aaron Alexis, had walked into the Washington Navy Yard and opened fire. The shooting spree killed twelve and injured eight others.
This kind of incident is terrifying for its randomness and brutality. While mass shootings are no more frequent than they were in recent decades, they do seem to come at greater cost — six of the most violent 20 shootings in U.S. history took place in the last five years.
According to Piers Morgan of CNN, this tragedy calls for stricter gun legislation. He tweeted the day of the attack:
The Wash Navy Yard shooter had 3 guns including AR-15 assault rifle – same killing machine used at Aurora and Sandy Hook.
-Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 16, 2013
Morgan spoke too soon. Aaron Alexis carried out his heartless attack using a 12-gauge shotgun and a pistol he took from an officer.
On the other side, Bill O’Reilly saw this tragedy as an opportunity to chastise the video game industry. On September 18, O’Reilly had Charles Williams, a youth psychologist at Drexel University, on his show to discuss the impact violent video games have on youths. Williams concluded firmly that violent video games are the cause of such tragedies, even though he only proved correlation.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with either O’Reilly or Morgan trying to further causes in which they believe (and even though murder rates in “Right to Carry” states put Morgan’s gun control proposal on shaky ground), the politicization of tragedies has become a media favorite. This politicization makes these tragedies a means to an end and uses victims as pawns in a political chess match.
This is not to say tragedies such as the Boston bombing, the Sandy Hook shooting and the Navy Yard shooting do not provide exigency for action. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks required swift responses for fear of future consecutive attacks. But, like in an argument with a friend, it is best to address perceived offenses after both you and your friend have had a chance to cool down and reflect. Without this period of reflection, arguments disintegrate into reliance on talking points and emotionally-charged attempts at pathos.
This rule of thumb would benefit our discourse in other areas as well, as the recent Trayvon Martin case demonstrates. Instead of polarizing our country over a race debate, the media could have spent just a little time mourning the loss of one of our nation’s youths. After careful thought, it could then have facilitated level-headed discussion about what action, if any, needed to be taken.
THE EDITORS: Against “Government by Crisis.”
In the wake of the next tragedy, before rushing to social media and posting the first rash argument that pops into our heads, we ought to take time to reflect, out of respect for those lost and for their survivors. After some time, consider possible steps that government or civil society can take in order to prevent future attacks.
—Samuel Kirk Glaze is a freshman studying political science.