Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller deceptively attacked President Obama for briefly discussing the Washington Navy Yard shooting, downplaying the frequency of such mass shootings to allege that "[s]caring the American public is one of President Obama's favorite political tactics to get gun control."
Before a scheduled September 16 speech on the economy, Obama addressed the shooting earlier that day at the Washington Navy Yard, where at least one gunman opened fire at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command and claimed at least 13 lives. During those remarks, Obama said:
I've been briefed by my team on the situation. We still don't know all the facts, but we do know that several people have been shot, and some have been killed. So we are confronting yet another mass shooting -- and today, it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital.
After offering "gratitude to the Navy and local law enforcement, federal authorities, and the doctors who've responded with skill and bravery," and sending "our thoughts and prayers to all at the Navy Yard who've been touched by this tragedy," Obama concluded, "we're going to be investigating thoroughly what happened, as we do so many of these shootings, sadly, that have happened, and do everything that we can to try to prevent them." At no point in the speech did Obama address gun laws.
Miller suggested that by referring to "yet another mass shooting" and "so many of these shootings," Obama was exaggerating the incidence of mass shootings. She contrasted Obama's words with her false claim that "[t]he last mass shooting was over nine months ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown." She added that, "While we mourn every one of those children and educators lost that day -- and today in Washington, D.C. -- these events are not a cause for increased alarm."
According to reporting from Mother Jones there have actually been four mass shootings between Newtown and the Navy Yard shooting that each claimed at least 5 lives. Recent research by criminology professor Pete Blair has found that the number of shootings where mass murder is the primary motive is on the rise:
Miller uses this faulty view of the frequency of mass shootings along with a false claim about Obama's past remarks on the epidemic of gun violence in the United States to suggest that he is trying to manipulate the public to push for stronger gun laws. In offering that argument about how Obama is using the attack for political gain, Miller promotes her book and links to its Amazon.com page.
As I wrote in my new book, "Emily Gets Her Gun," every life is precious. But Mr. Obama never has much to say about the thousands of people murdered every year in individual shootings. You never hear Mr. Obama talk about investigating those killed every day in our cities. (Well, except for Trayvon Martin, who the president said looked like the son he never had before the trail of George Zimmerman even started.)
Instead, Mr. Obama focuses on the rare mass shootings because the uncontrollable and random nature of them are more frightening to the public, which is politically helpful for him to push his gun-control agenda.
In fact, Obama frequently comments on the thousands of lives lost to gun violence annually, often specifically contrasting those deaths to the victims of specific mass shootings:
- On January 16, Obama stated, "In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun -- 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing."
- In a March 28 speech Obama said that the "agony" of Newtown families "burns deep in the families of thousands -- thousands of Americans who have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun over these last 100 days -- including Hadiya Pendleton, who was killed on her way to school less than two months ago, and whose mom is also here today."
- Reacting to the July 20, 2012 Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting, Obama said, "Every day and a half the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater."
- Commenting on the January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Obama wrote in a March 13, 2011 opinion piece that "since that day, we have lost perhaps another 2,000 members of our American family to gun violence. Thousands more have been wounded. We lose the same number of young people to guns every day and a half as we did at Columbine, and every four days as we did at Virginia Tech."