The New York Sun invited John to expand on his thoughts about “politicizing tragedy” in the context of the Virginia Tech murders. His column appears in the paper today as “Barrel of the gun.” John writes:
The gulf between left and right is deep, but perhaps not so deep as the divide between the political and the apolitical. The apolitical majority instinctively believes that the human dimension of an event like the Virginia Tech murders is entitled to priority over the political hay that can be made over it. Partisans would do well to acknowledge that priority by holding their fire until the initial sense of horror has passed.
The second reason why the rush to draw political lessons from the Virginia Tech massacre is premature is that we don’t yet know the facts of the case. The day after the murders, the New York Times asserted, “What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.” But the paper’s conclusion was negated by its own admission that: “Not much is known about the gunman, who killed himself, or about his motives or how he got his weapons, so it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy.”
It is, indeed, premature. There will be plenty of time, next month and next year, to talk about whether and how the tragedy at Virginia Tech bears on the issue of firearms regulation. But any arguments that can be made logically in that regard will depend on a better understanding of the crime: of the murderer, his weapons and how he obtained them; his motives and whether they could have been foreseen; his methods and how they could have been best defended against.