Today was a bad day all around - even without considering the flooding disaster that is Colorado - when we found our nation handling yet another shooting spree... this time at a well-guarded Washington DC Navy Yard.
These are the facts as can be confirmed (EDIT 9/26/13, I feel the need to add a little more for those Google searchers pulling up this article, SEE BELOW):
1) Early reports of multiple shooters proved wrong, as usual: there's always confusion during these mass shooting incidents, with survivors and eyewitnesses confused about where and when the violence takes place. There was just one guy.
2) The shooter brought with him just a shotgun, but used the fact he was shooting up a military installation to secure additional firearms - handgun and rifle - to continue the shootout.
3) The shooter had his own access card to the grounds. Working for a private tech firm supporting the Navy Yard, he would need some form of access to get into work areas as part of his job.
4) The shooter was involved in a previous shooting incident in 2010 when he lived in Texas, when he was charged with shooting a gun he claimed he was cleaning when it accidentally went off. Those charges were dropped. He was also charged in 2004 shooting out a car's tires in Seattle.
5) The shooter had a background as a military reservist from 2007 to 2011 when he was discharged.
6) There are reports that the shooter had undergone - and maybe still undergoing - psychological treatment for sleep issues and anger management.
7) The shooter was African-American.
7a) The identities of the victims have not been established yet. The authorities are most likely talking to victims' families first.
UPDATE: The identities were released to the public, Washington Post created a memorial site. By the looks of it the shooter did not discriminate, he shot at White, Black, Hindu Indian, male, female. Most of the victims were middle-aged or near retirement age.
8) There are currently 13 dead, with 8 wounded.
These are the speculations:
1) Would the current needs for universal background checks as supported by a broad majority of Americans stopped the shooter from getting a firearm? Probably not in this case: since that Texas gun charge was dropped it wouldn't have shown up on the background check. And I'm not sure if the 2004 charges would have expired otherwise, or if the psychological treatment would have been a red flag under the rules.
2) Would the shooting have been less tragic if there were more people at the workplace with firearms / conceal permits? You have to be kidding: this was the Navy Yard. There's supposed to be armed guards, fences, barricades, defensive systems across the place. And yet I won't be surprised if we're gonna get gun enthusiasts arguing for conceal-carry and more gun permissiveness at a military base (again: they said this crap after the Fort Hood shootings).
UPDATE: This did not stop LaPierre of the NRA from declaring the shooting wouldn't have been as bad if there had been more "Good guys with guns," the blanket NRA excuse against sensible gun safety laws. Never mind the fact that there were armed guards on the site, the cops responded within 2 minutes, never mind the possibility of a "good guy with a gun" getting confused at who to shoot, and then having the cops shoot at him thinking he might be a second shooter (refer back to the earlier point of the reports of multiple gunmen).
3) What motivated the shooting? The shooter did not leave behind any obvious clue like a letter or a death threat on a website. There is no evidence as of yet what triggered the shooting. (any further speculation based on race would really be in poor taste until we get specifics)
UPDATE: Huff Post has an article that the shooter left a note, indicating the shooting was a twisted case of a mental breakdown.
4) The shooter is someone with a serious track record of gun ownership. This was not an overnight impulse to buy a gun and shoot up someplace: he's had guns before. And he's used guns before...
5) The more obvious point about the shooter is the anger management (lack of). A huge red flag in any shooting spree. Any kind of terror attack, really. The patterns still all point to one thing: an angry guy lashing out at a supposed injustice and taking it out on a lot of people who had nothing to do with causing that anger. Mostly the shooter is an angry white guy, but we've had angry black guys as shooters before, there's been angry Asian guys, there's been angry ethnic guys across the board.
But the common link is there: Anger. There are a lot of gun owners in the United States, I will grant you that. Most of them never pull the trigger outside of legal usage such as practice ranges and/or licensed hunting. But you get the gun owner with the persecution complex, the rage against women/the job/next door neighbor who leaves the flood lights on. It's the combination of rage and access to firearms that ought to be of concern.
It'd be nice to have a debate on the matter, on the problem of guns and anger. But David Frum is right: we're never going to get a debate on guns at all anymore, are we...?
UPDATE: Still don't have a serious debate on gun safety.