The New York Times delivered a first of its kind front page editorial today deploring the proliferation of guns in America. The editorial has been widely praised in the media as if the writing alone would have an effect on gun violence.
The first line reads as follows: “It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.” I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but the timing is odd. Americans have been subject to a number of random gun attacks by disturbed and disturbing shooters, the majority of whom have been young men with no discernible political ties. It is an open question whether increased gun control laws enacted after so many guns are already in circulation would help keep guns away from such disturbed young men.
What is interesting about the timing of the New York Times piece is that it follows a political act, obviously planned and executed by two people who believed that they were supporting the Islamic state. The horror in San Bernardino may have loosely resembled the earlier killings, but it is hard to believe that gun control laws would deter planned political killings. France has far tighter gun control laws than the United States, and clearly such laws did not deter the recent killings in Paris.
So why the timing? Why not a front page editorial after the dreadful school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut? Perhaps the New York Times is trying to place the San Bernardino shooting into the same category of random violence perpetuated in Columbine or Newtown. This would deny that the United States was attacked by people who at the very least believed they were acting on behalf of Islam. That thought is perhaps even more frightening than random violence.