The Campaign Spot

Another Awful Shooting, and Another Awful Debate

Tuesday’s Morning Jolt includes non-Navy Yard news — Bill Daley suddenly loses interest in being the next governor of Illinois, Syria is still a mess, the Obamacare showdown looms . . . but let’s face it, our minds and hearts are still in Washington today.

Another Awful Shooting, Soon to Be Followed by Another Awful Gun-Control Debate

Another horrible day; another day ruined when some loon decides that the best way to address his problems with the world is to murder as many strangers as he can until someone shoots him. Someday it would be nice to actually discuss mental health in this country. Someday it would be nice to know if there are warning signs for these horrors or ways to prevent it before the first shots get fired. Is the shooters’ cruelty ultimately driven by isolation? An inability to cope with adversity? Despair? Uncontrollable rage? Presumably, at some point, the shooter wasn’t too far gone, and he could have chosen a path different from this horrific blaze of terror.

But we can’t have the mental-health discussion, because our leaders insist we must first have the gun-control debate. Immediately. It can’t wait in line. It has to start before the shooting incident is over. Twitchy tracked all the pro-gun-control tweets from celebrities. Henry Winkler got his gun-control Tweet in by 9:50.

David Frum seems to believe that it is somehow good, or useful, or helpful to himself and his cause to begin fuming about the need for gun control the moment the public hears about a mass shooting. He got his arguments for gun control — actually, more mockery of the arguments of Second Amendment supporters — out from about 10:30 to 10:56.

This is a compulsion, right? He knows he’s not going to persuade anyone, right? He knows that a lot of people find it jerky, and small, and petty to cite a mass shooting as an argument for gun control while that mass shooting is still going on, right?

Then again, knowingly or not, he’s just following the advice contained in 80-page document titled “Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging,” and produced by three Democratic political consulting firms led by the polling and research outfit Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Their advice to gun-control supporters:

The most powerful time to communicate is when concern and emotions are running at their peak. The debate over gun violence in America is periodically punctuated by high-profile gun violence incidents including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, the Trayvon Martin killing, Aurora and Oak Creek. When an incident such as these attracts sustained media attention, it creates a unique climate for our communications efforts.

It’s not a tragedy, it’s an opportunity! The report goes on:

We should rely on emotionally powerful language, feelings and images to bring home the terrible impact of gun violence. Compelling facts should be used to back up that emotional narrative, not as a substitute for it.

Because we don’t want those facts getting in the way, right?

A gentle reminder:

Firearm-related homicides declined 39 percent and nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69 percent from 1993 to 2011, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Firearm-related homicides dropped from 18,253 homicides in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011, and nonfatal firearm crimes dropped from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011.

Since you’ll inevitably begin hearing about the “gun-show loophole,” whether or not the shooter at the Navy Yard got his gun from a gun show . . . 

In 2004 (the most recent year of data available), among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of the offense, fewer than two percent bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show. About 10 percent of state prison inmates said they purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37 percent obtained it from family or friends, and another 40 percent obtained it from an illegal source.

And, of course, the shooter violated plenty of laws on the books before he fired his first shot:

By just being in the city with a loaded firearm, regardless of whether he was the legally registered owner, the suspect Aaron Alexis would be in violation of D.C. law. Carrying a concealed firearm or carrying a firearm openly in D.C. are both against the law. Bringing a firearm from out of state without registering it in D.C. is illegal. Assault-style rifles are banned. And even traveling through D.C. with a firearm is illegal.

In addition, the Navy Sea Systems Command headquarters is a federal facility that is subject to federal law, which prohibits carrying a firearm onto the premises (except by law enforcement or members of the armed forces).

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