Opinion > Commentary

If Newtown massacre didn't move the gun debate, Navy Yard killings unlikely to either


Louis Freedberg

Louis Freedberg

Instead of spurring the nation to action on gun control, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre appears to have had an unexpected consequence – removing the issue of gun control for the foreseeable future from the national policy agenda.

That has become distressingly clear in the week since yet another massacre, this time at the Washington Navy Yard just blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

As a result, the response to the Navy Yard killings has been depressingly tepid, a reflection of the political reality that if a gun massacre of 6- and 7-year-olds sitting at their classroom desks could not mobilize the political classes to action, that calling for gun regulation after a massacre of 12 adults would be equally futile – and for some suicidal politically.

Yesterday at a memorial for the Navy Yard victims, President Obama, in one of his most moving speeches, said the killings “ought to be a shock to all of us” and should spur Americans to demand “a common sense” balance between gun rights and gun control.” Instead, he said, he sensed a  “creeping resignation” that these repeated killings are “somehow the new normal.”

But underscoring his own resignation, he conceded “the change we need will not come from Washington.” Even as he said “our tears are not enough,” he did not propose any legislation that might have stopped the deranged Aaron Alexis from buying a shotgun two days before the killings with the intent to kill and maim.

While some states did respond legislatively to the Newtown killings – most notably New York and Colorado – the National Rifle Association and its supporters were able to squelch any coordinated national attack on weapons circulating in neighborhoods, in the hands of people whose only intent is to use them for an evil purpose.

Perhaps the most memorable response to Newtown was NRA Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre’s declaration that “the only thing that can stop a a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” — followed by a call for more guns.  Its National School Shield initiative called for “a selected school staff member to be designated, trained and armed on school property” in every school in the nation.

LaPierre was at least consistent yesterday when he repeated that mantra on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying that the problem at the Navy Yard was that “there weren’t enough good guys with guns” to prevent the attack, and that only “when the good guys with guns got there, it stopped.”

With perfect timing to further squelch any serious effort to revive the gun regulation debate, just days before, two Colorado legislators – one of them the president of the State Senate – were thrown out of office in a recall election inspired by their support for one of the few meaningful state gun laws to have been passed in response to the Newtown killings.

Meanwhile, the killings of children in neighborhoods across the nation continue in tragedies that aren’t reported beyond one or two nights on local broadcast news. Last month in Oakland, where EdSource’s offices are located, Drew Jackson – just 1-year-old – was shot and killed while sleeping alongside his father by a gunman shooting through a bedroom window. A month before, 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine was killed when someone fired shots through the door of the apartment where she had gone for a sleepover with her friends – two of whom were also shot but survived.

An EdSource survey showed that many state’s largest school districts did in fact respond to the Newtown killings. Nineteen districts made changes to their school safety plans, including Los Angeles Unified, which set up a plan to have police officers and other law enforcement personnel to visit every elementary school or middle school every day. Montebello Unified added resource officers at all of its high schools, and installed camera systems at school facilities throughout the district. Corona-Norco Unified required all its approximately 5,000 employees to wear identification badges at all times. And so on.

But these efforts won’t do anything to reduce the gun violence on the streets surrounding our schools. They don’t inspire confidence that another Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook or Washington Navy Yard massacre won’t happen again, at any moment.

States acting on their own can’t do the job. As I wrote last December, California is ranked ahead of every other state on the gun regulation scorecard, including a ban on some of the most deadly assault rifles.  Yet the state is still flooded with guns. Nearly 10 million weapons were sold in the state over the past two decades, and over 600,000 in 2011, the last year we have figures on.  And those were just the legal, registered sales.

So here we are, post-Sandy Hook. The killings there, which should have moved us to do something meaningful to make sure that children don’t become victims of random gun violence in their schools or neighborhoods, has had just the reverse effect: frightening our political leaders into doing nothing at all.

Louis Freedberg is executive director of EdSource in Oakland.

Filed under: Commentary, Reforms, School Climate

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5 Responses to “If Newtown massacre didn't move the gun debate, Navy Yard killings unlikely to either”

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  1. Maury on September 30, 2013 at 10:23 am09/30/2013 10:23 am

    • 000

    Congrats Mr. Freedberg,
    You are my latest nominee for “Box car Doorman” joining other dark luminaies Diane Feinstein, Barbra Boxer, Chuck Shumer and a host of MOTs who will not or can not learn from history. Every genocide is preceded by disarming the victims.
    The most disgusting people of all were the trusted community “leaders” who stood at the open box car door urging their flock “…it’s alright, just a short train ride, don’t make trouble, move along…” at the end they too were pushed in.
    An armed man can be killed but not made a slave…..

  2. Andrew on September 29, 2013 at 9:37 pm09/29/2013 9:37 pm

    • 000

    Noted in tonight’s news – Bay Area TV News crews hit by brazen robberies:

    “The bulk of the previous incidents, however, have happened in Oakland, where journalists have been robbed and accosted, some in the middle of the day, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Among the most brazen incidents, according to The Guardian, happened when ‘a KPIX crew was filming outside a school in Oakland at noon and were live on air when five men descended on them and grabbed the camera from their tripod.’ The reporter was allegedly punched in the face before the robbers sped off in a Mercedes. Last month a different TV news crew was ‘robbed at gunpoint of its camera equipment in West Oakland, with journalists made to prostrate themselves on the ground as the assailants fled.'”

    No offense, but I can’t say that I’d want to live the way you folks in Oakland apparently do. Must be in quite a bit of constant apprehension, especially the women. Seems to me that the problem isn’t that you have too many guns there, but that you have way too many un-incarcerated criminals. The heavily armed and capable good citizens of my relatively crime-free county wouldn’t abide the rampant criminality that you Oakland folks put up with. Not for even a day.

  3. Andrew on September 29, 2013 at 10:57 am09/29/2013 10:57 am

    • 000

    Louis, I understand how you must feel in Oakland. I am presently blessed to live in a remote and unpopulated part of the state where gun ownership and use abounds and crime is all but non-existent. Once, in an urban part of the state, I was the subject of a vicious and unprovoked attach by two very large and determined pit bulls. I completely emptied my small pepper spray canister into their faces futilely trying to stop the attack, which ceased only when I fired my licensed concealed .40 handgun. Had the dogs encountered a child rather than me, the child would doubtless have been killed or horribly torn. Yes, someone called the police, 911, and reported that I was being viciously attacked, but the overworked police took 4 hours to come. Prior to his Navy Yard rampage, the shooter there had committed two violent felonies involving discharging a firearm, yet lax law enforcement didn’t bother prosecuting or convicting him or incarcerating him. They declined to give him the felony record that would have preventing him from purchasing any firearm. As it was, he took a high capacity Beretta military pistol from one of the security officers that he disarmed and used it to finish his rampage. You feel that partial efforts at national disarmament will do something to prevent these problems. You are welcome to your choices. My choice in view of such things is to carry a licensed concealed handgun when I feel it is appropriate. It is of note that in Kenya during the horrific mall massacre by Islamic terrorists, at least a hundred civilian lives were saved by brave men armed only with personal handguns.

  4. Orlando Sandoval on September 24, 2013 at 9:28 am09/24/2013 9:28 am

    • 000

    Louis the guns used in the vast majority of murders especially in cities like Oakland are illegaly obtained, and part of a greater problem than legal ownership of weapons. In fact our own Vice President encouraged Americans to buy the very same type weapon used at the Naval Yard, a shotgun. You have an agenda which is obvious, you don’t like guns, fine, but you ignore the fact that people who are crazed, mad or just insane will kill with what ever weapon they have. More people are killed by blunt objects than “assault weapons”. It’s also interested that these large districts you mention now are following some of the NRA’s suggestions, putting good guys on campus with guns. Maybe you should stay focused on education and avoid the political soapbox.

  5. fillalim on September 23, 2013 at 6:46 am09/23/2013 6:46 am

    • 000

    Good. These “gun free” zones like ft hood and the navy yard are killing fields that welcome crazy people. Ban “gun free” zones and stop the slaughter. Of course the politicans tried to disarm more law-abiding people, which is would only further strenghen criminals by making it easier for them to kill. I do not feel safe in “gun free” zones and the navy shooting is just another example of why.

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