Daniel Doherty

Inevitably, in the wake of the horrific massacre at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning, there will soon be a long and drawn-out national discussion about how to reduce gun violence in the United States. This, of course, is to be expected. But without fail, the gun grabbers (as they are inclined to do) will once again make factually wrong assertions about “AR-15s” and why we need to ban them. At the same time, Second Amendment defenders will point out that Aaron Alexis perpetrated yesterday’s awful crime in a gun-free zone, and what’s more, some of the guns he used were reportedly stolen at the scene of the crime. But what will inevitably get lost in the mix, I suspect, is that the gunman was literally “hearing voices” -- i.e., he was mentally insane:

The former Navy reservist who slaughtered 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been hearing voices and was being treated for mental problems in the weeks before the shooting rampage, but was not stripped of his security clearance, officials said Tuesday.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee with a defense contractor, used a valid pass to get into the highly secured installation Monday morning and started firing inside a building, the FBI said. He was killed in a gun battle with police.

The motive for the mass shooting — the deadliest on a military installation in the U.S. since the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 — was a mystery, investigators said.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that there was no known connection to international or domestic terrorism and that investigators have found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.

Same pattern, different shooter. The type of men (don’t they always seem to be men?) that commit these types of atrocities are almost always mentally unstable, lonely and prone to violent outbursts. This seems to be the lowest common denominator uniting them, no? Why, then, is the national conversation almost always geared towards curtailing law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights? Alexis was clearly insane, and yet he wasn’t stripped of his security clearance. Why? And why, for that matter, wasn’t he institutionalized or being watched if he was “hearing voices” -- evidence that he was suffering from an intense psychiatric disorder. This seems to be a huge flaw in our health care system, no? So why aren’t we talking about that?

Now, of course, although clubs and hammers account for more violent deaths annually in the United States than rifles, the now-deceased murderer’s weapons of choice are what allowed him to commit those crimes. But the killer, it seems to me, shouldn’t have even been allowed to walk outside unsupervised, much less obtain a military security clearance. In other words, no gun control law the U.S. Congress (or any other legislative body) hopes to pass in the future could have (or would have) stopped this crime in advance. Criminals, by definition, do not adhere to the rule of law. Members of Congress therefore should commit themselves to figuring out ways to stop violent criminals like Aaron Alexis before they act. And that begins, I suspect, by fixing our broken mental health care system.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography