17 Sep 2013
- Written by LZ Granderson/CNN
Another day, another mass shooting in America.
More blood, more tears, more knee-jerk rhetoric about finding a solution for a bunch of different problems.
Those who knew Aaron Alexis – the shooter who killed 12 and injured eight more at the Washington Navy Yard this week – said he was a quiet, shy man.
At one point he was studying Buddhism and meditated often.
A little more digging, and we find he had several gun-related arrests and a pattern of misconduct in the Navy, but he was honorably discharged.
Pieces of a puzzle we may never fully put together.
But the fact that there is still so much we don't know about Alexis – or the motive behind the shootings – won't detour gun-control advocates from lumping his story in with that of Adam Lanza, the man police say is responsible for the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, along with the victims from gang- and drug-related shootings.
This is why after the tears have dried and the blood washes away, nothing, if anything, will change.
And because gun-control advocates so often try to cobble together every distinct narrative involving guns into a one-size-fits-all conversation, they are as much to blame for this merry-go-round as the gun lobbyists against whom they fight.
Gun shops are illegal in Chicago.
The city has bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And yet each week people continue to die in the streets from gunshot wounds.
This conundrum is just one example why making note that more Americans have died from gun violence here at home since Newtown than in the nine years fighting a war in Iraq is the kind of factoid that grabs our attention but undermines the true goal: curtailing the violence.
Not all deaths involving guns are the same – therefore trying to address each incident from the same point of view is futile. Until we learn more about Alexis – the events leading up to the shootings and the motive – the tragedy in Washington should not be used as catalyst for a conversation about gun control.
Instead, we should mourn and wait for more information.
Far too often assumptions surrounding the details of tragedies such as the one in Washington are made, and well-intentioned stances fall apart when additional facts come to light.
The guns James Holmes was charged with using in Aurora were purchased legally. Beyond the presence of a gun, the crimes committed in the movie theater are not at all similar to what happens in the streets of our large cities. And each time a politician or gun-control advocate tries to use these two very different examples interchangeably, the entire conversation and argument are compromised.
This happened after Newtown.
It happened after Aurora.
And it will keep continue to happen until the advocates accept that ridding the country of guns is a hopeless – and unconstitutional mission – and that the real goal should be addressing the factors that lead to the various forms of gun violence: factors such as poverty, mental health and failing schools.
Last month the nation breathed a sigh of relief after Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper in an elementary school in suburban Atlanta, prevented a man with an AK-47-type weapon and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition from hurting anyone.
It was not the time to talk generally about gun violence in this country. It was the time to discuss specifics such as cuts to mental health and its impact on services, given that the suspect, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, has a long history of mental disorders. Hill's storyline is similar to that of Lanza, and there are questions whether Holmes, the admitted shooter in the Aurora movie theater, is insane.
Public debates with Wayne LaPierre and attacks on the National Rifle Association have proven to be an ineffective way to prevent gun violence. In the wake of the Washington Navy Yard killings, perhaps a new strategy, one that doesn't involve playing on the nation's emotions or challenging the relevance of the Second Amendment, should be employed. That's not saying the NRA has won – in fact, I think LaPierre should step down because each time he opens his mouth, he steps in it – but at the end of the day the organization is more of an agitator than the enemy.
There is no one enemy.
Thus there is no one solution.
Because like it or not, the folks spraying our cities with bullets are not NRA members or legal gun owners. And despite the tendency to tie it all together, they have nothing to do with the Adam Lanzas of the world.
And it's too early to know how Alexis fits in the conversation.
According to a count by USA Today, more than 900 people have been killed in mass shootings since 2006. The thousands of other victims of gun violence over the past seven years died from many different circumstances, requiring different conversations.
This is why gun-control advocates need to abandon the routine of using mass shootings to turn law-abiding citizens into social pariahs and instead focus on something that could work.
(LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor who writes a weekly column for CNN.com. He is also a senior writer for ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.)