The Corner

Navy Yard Shooting Deemed ‘Preventable,’ but Not for the Fashionable Reasons

Politico records that a report on the Navy Yard shooting has called it “preventable”:

Supervisors of the gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year noticed his erratic behavior well before the shooting but did not reveal any problems to the government, a Navy investigation has found.

“Had this information been reported, properly adjudicated and acted upon, [Aaron] Alexis’s authorization to access secure facilities and information would have been revoked,” the report said — and the shooting might have been prevented.

An official Navy investigation unveiled Tuesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon officials blamed IT contractor Hewlett-Packard and its subcontractor, The Experts, for deciding not to take any action dealing with Alexis’s deteriorating “emotional, mental or personality condition, even when they had concerns that Alexis may cause harm to others.”

These failures, combined with previously revealed breakdowns in communication about Alexis’s history of arrests and instability, meant neither the government, nor its vendors had any clear understanding about the potential danger he posed. So he was able to obtain and keep a security clearance, and when he showed up to the Navy Yard on the day of the shooting, he used his own valid credentials to gain access.

The problem is less an issue of security or force protection, the report says — although it found problems there, too — but more about broad organizational failures that predated Alexis’s shooting by months or years.

You will note what the report very clearly does not say, which is that anything could have been done to prevent Alexis from obtaining firearms or that a slightly different combination of gun-control laws would have stopped him from shooting up the base. Thus does it stand in stark opposition to the rhetoric of the usual suspects, who immediately attempted to twist the incident into a justification for more authoritarian laws, and of President Obama himself, who gave an extraordinarily political, mawkish, and fact-free speech at the memorial service.

The notion that this episode was related to the wider debate was always preposterous. As I wrote at the time:

If there is a more “gun free” zone in the United States than a Washington, D.C.–based Naval facility that houses non-combat groups such as the JAG Corps and the Navy Band then I would like to know where it is. Washington, D.C. itself is now so locked down that there isn’t even a (legal) gun store within the city limits (one has to get one’s firearms through a dealer who works out of the city’s police headquarters), it remains the last place in the country without a concealed-carry regime, and it inexplicably limits its residents to buying weapons that have been approved by the states of California and Massachusetts. At the Navy Yard, meanwhile, most military personnel are not armed, and neither are the civilians who make up most of the workforce. All visitors to the Yard are asked for ID on the way in, and, if it is deemed necessary, they are searched to make sure that they are carrying neither firearms nor contraband.


We now know that the perpetrator owned only a Remington 870 shotgun, and that he murdered and maimed his way into possession of the two other weapons that he used in his attack. Those weapons were two standard 9mm handguns — not, as the media tripped over itself prematurely to report, a much-maligned AR-15 “assault rifle” . . . President Obama, Senator Feinstein, Senator Schumer et al. could have pushed through Congress every single gun-control provision that they coveted earlier this year — an “assault weapons” ban, a limit on the size of magazines, and a requirement that background checks be conducted for all private sales — and yesterday would nonetheless have happened exactly as it did. Indeed, in preparing for his spree, Aaron Alexis quite literally followed Joe Biden’s advice: He went out and bought an uncontroversial shotgun from a reputable, licensed dealer and subjected himself successfully to a federal background check. So routine was this purchase, it should be noted, that it could have been made legally in England or in France.

As is so often the case in a nation that already has more than 300 million firearms in circulation, the issue is not access to guns but mental health and the manner in which we deal with those who suffer from its effects. The officer who investigated the Navy Yard shooting, Admiral John Richardson, is under no illusion as to the nature of the problem. Again, per Politico, Richardson

recommended the Navy “immediately reinforce” with its leaders and contractors the importance of complying with laws and regulation that mandate the reporting of potential inside threats or problems.

Richardson’s investigation found that, with hindsight, there were many warning signs about Alexis. He’d been arrested several times and gotten into trouble during an undistinguished stint as an enlisted sailor. Alexis’s supervisors at HP’s subcontractor, The Experts, where he went to work after getting out of the Navy, noted several examples of bizarre or paranoid behavior.

At one point, Alexis took apart a hotel bed because he believed someone was hiding under it, and taped a microphone to the ceiling “to record the voices of the people that were following him.” And Alexis told police officers with Naval Station Newport, R.I., that he believed he had a chip in his head and mentioned “microwave signals.”

The rest is here.


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