Disturbed man, guns, death: Not shocked, beyond shocked

It is too soon to know why it happened or exactly how it happened. But we know this: A man walked into the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. Monday morning and killed at least 12 people and was himself killed.

We know this, too: It has been widely reported that one of the three guns lying beside Aaron Alexis, the dead shooter, was an AR-15, the same kind of gun used in the Aurora shootings and Sandy Hook shootings.

And this: The shooter was arrested (but not charged) in 2010 for firing his gun through the floor of his Fort Worth apartment, the bullet nearly hitting his downstairs neighbor — a neighbor with whom he had exchanged angry words. Alexis claimed the gun fired accidentally while he was cleaning it. Interestingly, he had not checked to see how the neighbor was when the police came. The neighbor moved out. Alexis was evicted.

And this: The shooter had once been arrested in Seattle for shooting out the tires on a vehicle parked at a construction site near his home. He told detectives he had been “mocked” by workers there and that he had had an anger-fueled “blackout.” The police reports says the shooter’s father told detectives that his son suffered from PTSD from the events of 9/11 when Alexis lived in New York. No charges were filed. Apparently the paperwork was misplaced.

And this: He was discharged from the Naval Reserve for what one official told The Washington Post was “a pattern of misconduct,” including the 2010 shooting. And yet he would go to work for a Navy subcontractor working on computer systems, as if the pattern of misconduct were no longer meaningful. According to the Post, he had clearance and was scheduled to start work at the Navy Yard this month.

And we know this: Not quite a week before the latest mass shooting, two Colorado state senators were recalled in large part because of their votes on a couple of sane, moderate gun-control bills passed in the wake of Aurora and Sandy Hook. People in their districts were apparently sufficiently enraged by the sane, moderate response to mass killings so as to toss the two senators out of office.

We don’t know how or when Alexis bought the guns, whether they were bought legally. Presumably, someone who has clearance to work at the Navy Yard would not be on any do-not-sell list. It is exceedingly difficult, of course, to get yourself on a do-not-sell list.

We know too much. You didn’t have to wonder what the response to the latest tragedy would be. The tears. The grieving families. The vigils. The anger. The search, just beginning in this case, to find a motive for the deaths, as if we hadn’t learned the real lesson of Columbine — that there can never be a single motive.

There would be, of course, calls for new laws. There would be, of course, calls that that calls for new laws are only politicizing the issue.

David Frum, George W. Bush’s former speechwriter and now a conservative CNN pundit, got to it right away. A prominent voice for most gun control laws in the wake of Aurora and Sandy Hook, Frum sent out a series of tweets, early in the coverage, that outraged the gun-rights people. He began by noting sardonically that “In wake of this most recent mass-casualty shooting, it is important that we all respect the feelings of America’s gun enthusiasts.”

He then listed five rules of etiquette, including No. 4 that “Any attempt to stop mass casualty shootings is ‘political.’ Allowing them to continue is ‘non-political.’ “

We saw the politics of guns in Colorado. We saw the first recalls in Colorado legislative history become successful recalls, with pro-gun money battling pro-gun-control money. The recalls were supposed to set off a “wave of fear” for legislators everywhere who would be so bold as to vote for any gun control bills. I’m sure they accomplished all they set out to do.

Still, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Congress — which took no action on guns after Sandy Hook, after Aurora, after Gabby Giffords — was “shirking its responsibilities.” Meanwhile, many of the statements of condolences from other senators and House members markedly left out any mention of guns or shooting. To mention guns and shooting is to suggest we have a problem with gun violence. And to suggest we have a problem with gun violence is to concede that something should be done to try to solve the problem.

So, now what?

Here’s the tragedy piled onto tragedy: In the wake of another mass shooting, no one is shocked. We are beyond shocked. We are saddened, outraged, horrified — but not shocked. It is too late for that. That is where we are today.

We are, in fact, exactly where we were before.

**Update: There is some confusion as to whether an AR-15 was involved in the Navy Yard shootings. There is no confusion as to whether Alexis brought guns to the Navy Yard and killed 12 people.

[ Image via NPR: The Navy Yard on lock down post-massacre. ]


  1. Hi Mike,

    A lot of reports are suggesting that the only weapon that Alexis brought to the facility was a shotgun, and that he attacked a guard and stole one or more additional weapons, one of which may have been an AR-15 type rifle. It could also have been a select-fire weapon such as the M4 Carbine, which has never been available on the civilian sporting arms market.

    Mentally disturbed people, and Alexis surely was one of them, need help. I think it’s premature to call this a gun control issue, especially given that it occurred in a secure facility located in the District of Columbia, which has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation.

  2. Latest reports are that no AR-15 type rifle was used and that the guy used a shotgun and two pistols. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your ideologically fueled agenda.

  3. I feel your outrage and anger over this incident, but please don’t blame the inanimate objects. I own a AR-15 and I’d never consider it an assault rifle because it’s not, it’s a defense rifle. After learning about the differences for home defense purposes, this is the gun I want protecting me and my family.

    It’s being reported now that Alexis shoot out some tires with a pistol in 2004 in Seattle which he experienced a black out due to anger. And why wasn’t he charged? There was a guy here in Fort Collins, that just brandished his pistol to a couple of punks that where threaten him on the way home one night and he had to serve time. There is definitely something else going on here that hasn’t been made public yet, and maybe never will. All I know is that there are literally thousands of gun laws on the federal and state books that I comply with that have been unable to prevent tragedies like this one. I’m with Rogan on this one.

    “This country has a mental health problem disguised as a gun problem and a tyranny problem disguised as a security problem.” – Joe Rogan

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