Navy Yard Shooting

Cornelia Beckett ’14
Opinions Editor

When I was growing up in Washington, DC, in the 2000s, my mother and I shared two macabre in-jokes. One we called “the fall curse:” the inevitability of something horrible happening every fall. The Y2K paranoia (1999), Bush stealing the election (2000), United 77 slamming into the Pentagon (2001), John Allan Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrorizing the region with random sniper attacks (2002) – you get the idea. The other sad attempt at gallows humor as a coping mechanism was our running tally of public places in American life no longer safe from random gun attacks. It started with a high school. Then a college. Then a fitness class, a church, a temple, a mall, a movie theater, an office building, a military base, and perhaps most chillingly, an elementary school. So many schools. So many other places in our daily life have been hit that we are numb.

So it is with deep sadness for my city, but not much surprise, that I register our being hit again by a combination of the fall curse and the All-American shooting spree. On Monday, September 17, Aaron Alexis, a discharged reservist, opened fire in Washington’s Navy Yard complex, killing 12 and wounding at least eight others, according to the Washington Post. I’ll let that sit there. It needs no embellishment.

Gun violence already plagues America. Urban gun violence plagues DC in particular, and in an upsetting decision for the beleaguered city, the Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. My schoolmates and I in the outskirts of the city used to claim that our school faced more danger from gang violence than from the unthinkable mass shootings that have only become more and more frequent. Indeed, a student was murdered in a gang crossfire on a public bus the same year as the Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms extended to guns in the streets of Washington.

The Navy Yard complex was a secure military facility, with checkpoints and multiple levels of clearance not just for servicemen and women but the many, many civilian contractors who are the bread and butter of Washington’s security-industrial complex. The dramatic irony is heartbreaking and rage-inducing. Cue the NRA saying, “If only they had guns, they could have fought back.”

The problem is, the next time a gun massacre happens in the US, as it inevitably will, one could plug the specifics into a standard shooting news story in place of “Navy Yard,” “DC,” and “contractors,” and little else will have changed. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has admitted that there aren’t the votes to curb gun ownership. DC will perhaps briefly remember the 12 and move on, hoping our daily lives won’t be hit next. Guns are a battle where nonviolence and positive thinking are about as helpful as Congress, which is to say, not much. At this point, hope is all we have.

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