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“I would be willing to do that — anything we can do to focus attention on the senseless killings that take place,” Mr. Reid said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, echoed those sentiments during an interview on CNN.

“The mental health aspect of this senseless, horrific tragedy ought to be front and center and a basis for action.”

The problem, professionals say, is that mental health is a complex issue that requires an equally complex solution. It also requires uncomfortable national debate about major spending increases and intrusive government powers.

Gun control, by contrast, appeals as a cheap, easy fix.

“Individuals who suffer from mental illness require a host of different types of support. There needs to be access to hospitals on an as-needed basis. There needs to be outpatient facilities, programs that can monitor individuals, trained experts to work with them. All of this requires money — lots and lots of money,” Mr. Shadick said. “A bill that restricts guns doesn’t require a whole lot of money. It’s a relatively simple step. Ideally that would solve the problem, but it won’t.”

‘Legitimate access’

While many details of motives and his past remain unclear, authorities say, Alexis had the proper credentials to enter the sprawling Navy Yard complex. He held a “secret” security clearance as a sailor.

The FBI confirmed Tuesday that he “had legitimate access to the Navy Yard as a result as a contractor.”

“He utilized a valid pass to gain entry to the building,” Ms. Parlave said.

His access to the building came in the form of a “common access card” given by the Defense Department to civilian employees and some contractors.

He reportedly had a valid pass during his active stint in the Navy. After it ended, he obtained another one as a civilian contractor with the Experts, a company hired by Hewlett-Packard for a contract with the Navy.

Being in the Navy and acquiring that contractor pass would require thorough background checks. Navy officials said Tuesday there was nothing in Alexis‘ background that caused concern, even the multiple arrests, none of which resulted in a conviction.

Despite multiple violations of military rules, including for insubordination, Alexis also received an honorable discharge from the Navy because military officials did not have the evidence to support a less-than-honorable discharge.

There still are unanswered questions about his Navy career, as there are with most of his life and around his mental state at the time of the shooting spree.

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