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Aaron Alexis’ history renews debate between mental issues, gun crimes
Question of the Day
Aaron Alexis told police he heard voices in his head and “microwave vibrations” prevented him from sleeping. He was an avid player of violent video games and faced multiple disciplinary actions while in the Navy Reserve.
But none of that stopped him from securing credentials to enter the Washington Navy Yard and legally buying a gun to slaughter 12 innocent people.
Details about the 34-year-old Navy Yard gunman’s life revived a debate often overlooked in Washington’s partisan gun squabbles: the connection between mental illness and gun crimes that concerns advocates on both sides of the issue.
While Democrats pressed anew Tuesday for gun control laws that have little chance of passing Congress, issues surrounding mental health and screening, which also played a major role in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, remain untouched in the nation’s capital.
The disconnect played out on the political stage while police provided a clearer picture of how Alexis entered the complex Monday with just one weapon: a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun that he is suspected of buying at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton a week earlier.
Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said Alexis may have obtained a handgun once inside the facility. Law enforcement officials also have told The Washington Times that they are investigating whether Alexis also used two handguns, likely picked up from victims, as the shooting unfolded.
Officials also dismissed reports that Alexis used an AR-15 assault rifle.
A senior law enforcement official told The Washington Times that Alexis is believed to have concealed his Remington 870 shotgun in a bag, disassembling the weapon into two parts and then reassembling it in a bathroom after gaining entry to the complex.
He then made his way to the fourth floor of Building 197 and began shooting victims down below in an atrium cafeteria.
The official said there would have been no reason for Navy Yard security to search the gunman’s bag because he had a credential to access the building as a contractor.
Beyond the details of Alexis‘ checkered past — which includes at least three arrests, including two involving firearms — a portrait of the killer, along with what may have driven him to such unspeakable violence, began to come to light. It is raising fresh questions about the links between mental illness and access to guns, an issue that both sides of the gun control debate want to address.
Alexis, who was fatally shot by police, was by all accounts a troubled, nomadic figure. Psychologists said he may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after living in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in addition to paranoia, self-described “anger-fueled blackouts” and other issues.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
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