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Horror — not surprise — reaction to latest shooting

For world, U.S. gun violence is new norm

by and

The Washington Post

Jimmy Davis, a 41-year-old London disc jockey, was saddened when he heard about the latest mass shooting in the United States. But like much of the world after the attack Monday at Washington’s Navy Yard, he was no longer shocked.

The United States is a place where “buying guns is like buying sweets from a sweet shop — it’s no problem,” Davis said Tuesday on a busy shopping street in southwestern London. “So when we hear there are shootings like this in America, we are not really shocked. Know what I mean?”

That reaction — of horror but not surprise — was echoed by bystanders and in other places around the world following the deadly attack. As seen from abroad, the mass shooting, apparently by a lone gunman, appeared part of a new American normal, a byproduct of a treasured gun culture that largely mystifies those living beyond U.S. borders.

Foreigners are aware of the grim list of the sites of recent U.S. massacres: Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Newtown, Connecticut — and now, Washington. And with gun laws little changed after the earlier killings, many said they fully expect the list to grow.

In China, people commenting on Weibo, a local version of Twitter, reiterated the widespread international view of U.S. gun laws as quixotic and potentially lethal.

“It’s time (for the U.S.) to control guns,” posted one user.

“It’s a cost of having no gun control!” posted another.

In some quarters, such as India, the shooting spree by yet another gunman in the U.S. failed to generate big headlines.

In some European countries, by contrast, the news dominated front pages and, for a time, TV networks and Internet chatter.

The Navy Yard attack sparked a particularly strong response in Britain, which strictly tightened gun-control measures after its own mass shootings in the 1980s and ’90s. Americans, many in Britain argued Tuesday, have yet to learn the lessons that have been absorbed by this nation of 63 million, where more than 200,000 guns and 700 tons of ammunition have been taken off the streets over the past 15 years.

In urban areas, offenders in search of firearms now regularly resort to rebuilt antique weapons, homemade bullets and even illicit “rent-a-gun” schemes.

“America’s gun disease diminishes its soft power,” opined Guardian newspaper columnist Jonathan Freedland. “It makes the country seem less like a model and more like a basket case, afflicted by a pathology other nations strive to avoid. When similar gun massacres have struck elsewhere — including in Britain — lawmakers have acted swiftly to tighten controls, watching as the gun crime statistics then fell.”

In Moscow, the shooting was seen through the prism of international relations and domestic politics.

Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of the Russian parliament, appeared to use it to fan the flames of a trans-Atlantic debate that ignited after President Vladimir Putin slammed the notion of American “exceptionalism” in a recent New York Times opinion piece.

“A new shootout at Navy headquarters in Washington — a lone gunman and 7 corpses. Nobody’s even surprised anymore. A clear confirmation of American exceptionalism,” Pushkov tweeted before the official death toll of 13 (including the shooter) had been announced.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow tweeted in response: “What’s exceptionalism got to do with it? Why use a tragedy to score political points?”

It’s not as if Russians are unfamiliar with violence. Three police officers were killed and six others wounded in separate bombings Monday in the southern regions of Ingushetia and Chechnya. Pushkov didn’t tweet about that, but he did note Tuesday that 35 people had been killed in violence in Iraq.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague offered condolences to relatives and friends of the victims, while Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones.”

Elsewhere, pundits reflected on the implications of the latest attack for U.S. President Barack Obama, and the likelihood of yet another bruising battle over curbing guns in America.

“The episode arrives at a particularly difficult moment for Obama,” Antonio Cano wrote in a news analysis for Spain’s El Pais newspaper. “The crisis in Syria, in which he has shown signs of indecision and weakness, has damaged his popularity. The president is in urgent need of a triumph to win back confidence.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Obama on behalf of his nation’s citizens expressing “heartfelt condolences” and describing the attack as a “heinous crime.”

The shooting was not big news in Israel, where armed security guards on school trips and soldiers with rifles commuting on city buses are common sights. In May, when a man shot dead four people at a bank, then turned the gun on himself, Israeli media labeled the shooter “an American-style lone gunman.”

In Lebanon, news of the killings was overshadowed by the diplomatic push for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons, which has eased concerns of a U.S. military strike on Damascus and the possible ramifications of such a strike for its smaller neighbor.

Najib Mitri, a prominent Lebanese blogger, said there was relief among Arabs that the shooter did not have a connection to the Middle East.

“What is happening in the area here is enough to tarnish our reputations already — the violence, the massacres. It’s a relief that this is not another opportunity to label us this way,” he said.

  • KTA

    It’s the new normal here in the States, too. This society has become utterly numb and desensitized to incidents like these. We’ve come to accept our own insanity when it comes to guns, murders, and violence itself.

  • yv0007

    Unless the United States does something about gun control things will
    get worse with time. This is a fact of life. The Republicans don’t want,
    in general, to have any control over gun sales in the USA. Therefore,
    they have the largest following from those who believe the USA should
    keep “as usual” regarding arms control. In fact this is becoming a never
    ending Western style movie, but a real and modern one, and worse than
    those days during the 1800’s with cowboys, bandits and sheriffs. Let’s hope this changes sooner than later. The American people deserve better.

  • disqus_pkrRDJU42M

    Smoking is a pretty good analogy to the gun craze in the states; they both kill, people who partake in such pastimes either don’t fully realize or care about the danger, and both industries are so large that the government, and related entities (cigarette companies, gun runners, gangs, NRA) are only interested in it’s continuation.

    Ironically (or cynically) like smoking, it’s only a matter of time before users learn their mistake or get themselves killed.
    “Live by the sword, die by the sword” springs to mind…

  • Roan Suda

    Ah, the all too predictable preening. Nice people don’t own guns or support gun ownership, just as nice people don’t smoke or hold illiberal ideas about the way things are or ought to be. Reality? How pedestrian! The fact is that while the homicide rate in America has dramatically fallen, the number of mass killings has skyrocketed. Why? Access to guns has hardly grown easier. The answer is America’s anarchic society, including the “right” to be stark-raving bonkers, as was the latest perp…Even deluded liberals surely know that getting rid of guns in America is even less feasible than weening your garden-variety high-school pot-smoker from his weed. But there again, crude reality is trumped by polite myth.