Amanda Ripley

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Shooting at the Holocaust Museum

10th Jun 2009 posted in General

News outlets, including CNN, are identifying James von Brunn, 88, as the suspect in a shooting at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. What appears to be his web site, which is getting swamped with traffic and may not work for long, portrays a man who is angry and anti-semitic, among other inadequate adjectives.

I am relieved to hear that the shooter was quickly disabled by security guards and is now at GW University Hospital, just around the corner from my office. It sounds like a security guard is in worse shape, and we can only hope for the best.

We will need to learn more about what happened. But there are a few things we may want to keep in mind: Almost all the major museums in DC already have metal detectors and guards. The monuments and museums have been heavily fortified with Jersey barriers and other obstacles since 9/11.

But they are still relatively open, free spaces for reflection and learning, and that’s what makes them precious. Spaces thronged every day by school children and visitors from around the world. It will be important, I think, to be smart in responding to this shooting. Or else we risk giving the shooter exactly what he wanted—magnifying his spasm of violence into a lasting legacy.

Stay tuned.