Focus on the shooters

The slaughter of 12 people (and the death of their shooter) at the Washington Navy Yard this week has raised more questions about guns, who gets them, and how we can keep them out of the hands of homicidal maniacs.

As has been the case with the shootings in Newtown, Mass., in Aurora, Colo., and in Arizona when Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot, the shooter, former Navy Reservist Aaron Alexis, was found to have raised some red flags that went unnoticed. He had a history of violent outbursts, including two cases where he fired guns in anger. He was never prosecuted for those events. He had sought help at VA hospitals for mental health problems, but had not been admitted. He had been given an honorable discharge from the Navy Reserve despite some violations of rules and regulations, putting him in the fast lane for the security clearance he needed to get into the Navy Yard.

Nobody put all this together. Aliexis was able to buy a shotgun in Virginia when none of this showed up on his background check. Only after he had killed 12 people did all this information come out.

Until this country figures out a way to identify the people that everyone agrees should not have guns, until we have background checks that actually check people’s background, until mental health records are made available for these checks, and people who seek help start to get it, we will continue to see these kinds of tragic incidents.

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