Sufficient information has come to light to offer at least a bit more informed commentary on the Navy Yard shooting of 09-16-13. The media and various politicians have predictably renewed their calls for additional gun control. Several readers commenting on my initial article on this incident have likewise been predictable.
Regular reader and commenter SlingTrebuchet wrote in part:
What if all the military personnel on the base had been armed?
What if many of the civilians on the base had been armed?
The narrative here is that armed individuals on the ground would have lessened the casualty count. Is this actually true?
The situation appears to have been chaotic. At one stage there were reports of two other shooters.
One was said to be in ‘military-type’ clothing and carrying a handgun. This person was later apparently identified as ‘legitimate’. What is interesting about this ‘legitimate’ person is that witnesses were reporting him as a shooter. What if one of those witnesses just happened to be carrying and acted in the belief that they were dealing with a shooter? What if the ‘legitimate’ person decided in turn that the witness was a shooter?
These are not unreasonable questions. What would have happened if people were armed on the base? Precisely the same things that happen in the majority of states where the concealed carry rights of citizens are honored: people who, in this case, were unarmed victims, would have been able to protect their lives and the lives of others. The kinds of horrors gun control proponents have always predicted when concealed carry has been adopted have, in every state, failed to materialize. Those licensed to carry are more law-abiding than the general population, and more responsible and cautious. They make few mistakes.
If the base were not a victim disarmament zone, the attack would likely not have occurred. In the modern era, every mass attack has taken place in a “gun-free” zone where the shooter or shooters have been assured they would face no effective response for a considerable time. But if it had occurred, the death toll would likely, at the least, have been reduced, and the attack might have been stopped with no loss of life.
Consider this report from cnsnews.com:
I know a lot of people are concerned about guns these days, but you know if everybody had arms, then there wouldn’t be these problems.
My son was at Marine Barracks — at the Navy Yard yesterday – and they had weapons with them, but they didn’t have ammunition. And they said, ‘We were trained, and if we had the ammunition, we could’ve cleared that building.’ Only three people had been shot at that time, and they could’ve stopped the rest of it.’
The Navy Yard shooting brings up the legitimate issue of carrying – and using – firearms on military installations.
Back in 1993, the Clinton administration virtually declared military establishments “gun-free zones.” As a result, the policy banned “military personnel from carrying their own personal firearms and mandates that ‘a credible and specific threat against [Department of the Army] personnel [exist] in that region” before military personnel ‘may be authorized to carry firearms for personal protection.” Indeed, most military bases have relatively few military police as they are in heavy demand to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to economist John Lott.
Additionally, Lott discovered that “every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.
The statements of victims that have thus far come to light indicated that they had no doubt about what was happening or who was doing it. While they didn’t know the shooter–Aaron Alexis–they could see him shooting at them. Had they been armed, there would have been no cases of mistaken identity. They knew precisely who they should shoot and why. The possibility of a mistake is hardly reason to leave innocents at the mercy of murderous madmen. If it were, no one should ever again drive a car as mistakes at the wheel kill far more than those killed by gunshot each and every year.
Mr. Obama, on one of his frequent “pivots” to a policy area that has been his absolute number one focus all along, planned a speech on his economic successes for Monday. And unfailingly decisive leader that he is, he did not allow something like the actual, ongoing murder of federal employees to deter him. He made scant mention of the dead, and immediately launched into a scathing and lengthy attack on Republicans that oppose his agenda, you know, the real enemies of America, unlike Islamic jihadists, dictators, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, etc. Even the press took notice:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was later peppered with questions on the tone of the president’s remarks. While Obama opened his address by calling the victims of the mass shooting ‘patriots’ and vowing to get to the bottom of what happened, he quickly pivoted to his remarks about congressional Republicans.
Carney defended the president’s remarks, saying that with Washington facing some looming deadlines, ‘Congress needs to act.’
He said Obama was addressing ‘the need to make sure that we, as a nation, do not make mistakes … and reverse the progress that we’ve achieved.’
He said it was ‘entirely appropriate’ for Obama to address the shooting at the beginning of the remarks. Asked if there was any consideration given to canceling the remarks given the shooting situation, Carney said there was not.
Well, of course! How could President Obama wait even a minute, nay a second, to tout his successes in keeping unemployment at record high levels for years, at depressing the labor participation rate to record lows, at dramatically lowering the household wealth of the middle class, of keeping gas prices about twice as expensive as when he entered office, at increasing the national debt by previously unimaginable levels, of putting record numbers of Americans on food stamps, and of raising the medical insurance rates of Americans dramatically via Obamacare?
Mr. Carney is right. It is entirely appropriate that Mr. Obama wait not another second for any reason to viciously slander and attack the very Republicans he pretended to respect and honor when he temporarily thought he needed them to approve a Syrian military adventure until Vladimir Putin changed his mind. How could any competent commander in chief wait even a millisecond to do that regardless of the reason?
Charles Krauthammer, however, dared to suggest that perhaps Mr. Obama could have waited a day–until the shooting was over and the dead and wounded had been identified and properly honored–before launching his partisan attack:
The president in that speech was back to hyper-partisan mode. Slashing attack on Republicans, at one point, he’s speaking of the Republicans, he said, and some of them are decent, which is quite a remarkable thing for a president to say if you expect cooperation.
And to do this within minutes of 13 naval employees, brave Americans lying dead, I thought was in extremely bad taste. He could have waited until tomorrow. It isn’t as if this is a holy anniversary. He could have spoken later in the week which is the week that marks the fifth year of the [economic] crisis.
The Status Quo:
Fox News reported the bare bones of what is currently known. The shooter, 34 year-old Aaron Alexis, a military contractor, killed thirteen people, aged 46 to 73, and at least eight were wounded, three by gunfire. People that know Alexis were hastily interviewed and the results were predictable: surprise, amazement, “he was always very polite to me,” and similar comments. A motive for the killing remains unknown. At this writing, it appears Alexis acted alone.
Also unsurprising was the reaction of the media and politicians when it was somehow reported that Alexis used an AR-15. The Washington Post, saying Alexis used “an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol,” immediately editorialized for gun control. The conclusion of the editorial:
Life does go on, through Columbine in 1999, through Virginia Tech in 2007, through Sandy Hook in 2012. Each atrocity provides a jolt to the nation and then recedes with little effect, until the next unimaginable event occurs, except each time a little more imaginable. Everything was supposed to change after a man with a semiautomatic weapon mowed down 20 elementary school children in their classrooms last December. But for the politicians, nothing changed. Now, another massacre, another roster of funerals. Again, again, again.
Mass killings are horrific and terribly frustrating, but notice the Wapo’s blind reliance on politicians to change everything. Notice too that such change is always to be accomplished by disarming the responsible, law-abiding and sane.
The New York Daily news, via talkingpointsmemo.com, was equally reactive, not bothering to wait for facts. Columnist Mike Lupica called the AR-15, the most popular sporting rifle in America, “made for murder.”
CNN also invented an entirely new weapon, an “AR-15 shotgun,” which exists only in the under-informed brains of media talking heads. CNN also noted this:
The sources, who have detailed knowledge of the investigation, cautioned that initial information that an AR-15 was used in the shootings may have been incorrect. It is believed that Alexis had rented an AR-15, but returned it before Monday morning’s shootings. Authorities are still investigating precisely how many weapons Alexis had access to and when.
No firearm dealer “rents” AR-15 rifles, or any other firearm. Dealers with indoor ranges often allow customers to fire various weapons on the range for short periods of time and under supervision, but the weapons never leave the premises. Federal law requires that complete federal paperwork and background checks be done for any firearm leaving the premises, counting all as sold. There is no such thing as renting a firearm to anyone and allowing them to leave the premises with it. The potential liability alone would be almost unimaginable.
This is the kind of misinformation those what would disarm Americans bring to public debate and the legislative table.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air also notes that Pamela Brown of CNN has also reported:
No AR-15 “assault rifles,” no “AR-15 shotguns,” no AR-15s at all. Oooops.
The Real Cause?
The Associated Press–and many other new outlets–have hit on what is likely the real cause of this attack:
U.S. law enforcement officials are telling The Associated Press that the Navy contractor identified as the gunman in the mass shootings at the Washington Navy Yard had been suffering a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said.
Aaron Alexis, 34, had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said… The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance that Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.
Family members told investigators that Alexis was being treated for his mental issues.
Fox News is also following this angle:
A Newport, Rhode Island police sergeant reported Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis to naval station police last month after the suspect told cops he was ‘hearing voices’ through his hotel room wall and that three people were following him and sending vibrations into his body, according to a police report obtained by FoxNews.com.
In the document, the officer said that on August 7, he was sent to a local hotel to check out a suspicious person report involving Alexis, who told him he was a naval contractor and travelled often.
The report said Alexis told the officer that while flying from Virginia to Rhode Island, he got into an argument with someone else at the airport who he believed had sent three people to follow him and keep him awake by talking to him and sending vibrations into his body.
He also said he thought he heard these three people – two black males and a black female–talking to him through a wall of his hotel room and through the walls, floors and ceiling of a hotel on the Navy base.
Alexis told the officer the trio was using ‘some sort of microwave machine’ to keep him awake.
The Newport Police did notify the Naval authorities, but it’s not known, what, if anything, the Navy did about that information. Fox continued:
There was no immediate response from the Navy about this latest revelation involving Alexis’ disturbing history of psychological problems and violent behavior involving guns.
Despite his past record, Alexis had his federal security clearance renewed just two months before his rampage Monday at the Navy Yard that left 12 dead before he died in a shootout with police.
Although Alexis was not a direct employee of the federal government, working as an IT subcontractor required that he obtain ‘secret’ clearance, according to Thomas Hoshko, of The Experts, a Hewlett Packard subcontractor working at the Washington Navy Yard. Alexis had previously worked for the company under clearance, but when he returned in July, another background check was conducted, Hoshko said.
‘We had just recently re-hired him,’ Hoshko told Reuters. ‘Another background investigation was re-run and cleared through the defense security service in July 2013.
The Fox report lists several instances of violent behavior, including discharging guns, involving Alexis from 2004 to 2010:
In Fort Worth in 2010, Alexis was involved in another shooting incident, this time at his home, where he, according to police reports, he shot through the ceiling and into his upstairs neighbor’s apartment, ‘terrifying her.’
According to a Nov. 4, 2010 police report, a neighbor of Alexis said she was sitting in a chair and heard a loud pop, saw dust and then holes in both her ceiling and floor. She said her downstairs neighbor Alexis had called cops on her several times for being loud but police always said they didn’t hear anything and no further action was taken.
As usual, many in the media have reported their favorite, anti-gun/anti-liberty narrative without bothering with such niggling matters as facts. As usual, many politicians have done the same, calling for gun control measures that almost certainly would not in any way have stopped Alexis, or anyone else, from killing. And as usual, the federal government has, once again, shown itself to be decidedly unserious about matters of safety and the prevention of deadly attacks, whether by insane domestic killers, or jihad-inspired terrorists.
It is, let’s keep in mind, still early in this investigation. While the FBI has told CNN no AR-15 was used, it’s possible that is not accurate. We still don’t know a great many things with any degree of certainty, though it seems reasonable to believe that Alexis was quite mentally ill, the Veteran’s Administration, and other organs of the federal government knew about it, and not only did nothing about it, they renewed his security clearance.
We don’t know how he managed to smuggle a shotgun onto the installation, but it may have been nothing more complex that putting it in the trunk of his car and driving though the gate after a cursory inspection of his identification. A Remington 870 can be disassembled into a relatively compact package less than two feet long. The weapon isn’t designed for that, but does break down–for cleaning–into smaller pieces that can be hidden in a backpack or clothing and reassembled within a few minutes.
In fact, there is a pre-existing internal audit that is, considering the events of 09-16, very disturbing, if not unexpected:
A soon-to-be-released government audit says the Navy, in an attempt to reduce costs, let down its guard to risks posed by outside contractors at the Washington Navy Yard and other facilities, a federal official with access to the report tells TIME.
The Navy ‘did not effectively mitigate access-control risks associated with contractor-installation access’ at Navy Yard and other Navy installations, the report by the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office says. Parts of the audit were read to TIME by a federal official with access to the document.
The risks resulted from an attempt by Navy officials ‘to reduce access-control costs,’ the report finds.
We do not know if this is a substantial contributing factor, but it certainly wouldn’t be cited as a factor helpful to security.
It may well be the case that these killings were done with a common shotgun, a weapon the Vice President has lauded as the be-all and end-all in personal defense. To date, virtually no anti-gun politician has suggested banning shotguns, preferring instead to focus on any weapon that looks remotely like a machine gun–hence the AR-15–hoping to trick the public into thinking they are actual machine guns rather than common semi-automatic rifles, a type of firearm mechanism more than a century old. If that is the case, it will be interesting to see how Mr. Biden “pivots” in his firearms advice.
At the moment, it seems likely that the proximate cause of this attack was the insanity of a single man, just as it was at Sandy Creek Elementary School. And it is also likely that insanity was known to a wide variety of authorities, yet nothing remotely effective was done to deal with Alexis. Who to blame for that?
The left bears substantial blame, as my 20122 PJ Media article notes, but surely not all of the blame. We must be able to detain and treat the genuinely insane and dangerous, but above all, we must be able to preserve individual liberty. Our recent experiences with the NSA, IRS, Fast and Furious (the Department of Justice) Benghazi, and the Obama Administration in general reveal that government cannot be trusted with the liberty and lives of its citizens, and one shudders to think how they would misuse involuntary commitment laws. After all, if one opposes government policy, are they not, by definition, crazy? Who in their right mind could possibly think that Obamacare, for example, is anything but the greatest blessing ever bestowed on a grateful nation? And as various Administration functionaries have claimed, conservative thought, such as honoring the Constitution and opposing big government, is inherently dangerous, insane and terroristic.
As always in such cases, firearms are not the cause but merely tools used for ill in these attacks. Ultimately, there may be a simple means to test sanity and connection with reality:
You are at work and suddenly hear gunshots. Looking into the hallway, you see a man armed with a handgun walking down the hallway, firing into open doors. He looks very determined, and positively unhinged. He will be at your doorway within 20 seconds. At that moment, would you prefer:
(1) That you and every other adult in your building be unarmed and helpless, left with no options but running, hiding or attacking the gunman with your bare hands?
(2) That you and others be armed and able to stop the attacker?
Begin sanity check–now.