US Navy Yard Shooting Suspect Had Troubled Past & ‘Secret Clearance’, Used An AR-15

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Vet in Navy Yard shooting had troubled past (FOX News, Sep 17, 2013):

Aaron Alexis, the Navy vet suspected in the killing of 12 people at Washington’s Navy Yard, had a troubled past that included two previous arrests involving shootings and a “history of misconduct” in the Navy.

Alexis, who friends described as a convert to Buddhism, was arrested in Fort Worth in 2010 after firing a gun into his neighbor’s apartment, leaving her “terrified,” according to a police report.

In addition, he was arrested in 2004 in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a construction worker’s car in an incident he later described as “an anger-fueled blackout.”

He also told Seattle police he had witnessed the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attack and “how these events had disturbed him,” according to a police report.

Alexis’ father told police in 2004 his son had participated in rescue efforts during 9/11 and had suffered post traumatic stress disorder. This could not be independently confirmed.

Authorities identify seven of the 12 people killed in Navy Yard shooting (Washington Post, Sep 17, 2013)

Alexis had ‘secret clearance’ – employer (IOL News, Sep 17, 2013):

Washington – Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old suspect in Monday’s shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, had “secret” clearance and was assigned to start working there as a civilian contractor with a military-issued ID card, his firm’s chief executive told Reuters.

“He did have a secret clearance. And he did have a CAC (common access card),” said Thomas Hoshko, CEO of The Experts, which was helping service the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a subcontractor for HP Enterprise Services, part of Hewlett-Packard.

Navy Yard shooting: AR-15, the weapon of choice — again (CNN, Sep 17, 2013):

It has been called the most popular rifle in America, and it’s back in the spotlight after Monday’s shooting at the Navy Yard: The AR-15.

Authorities said when Aaron Alexis unleashed a barrage of bullets Monday, he was carrying a rifle and a handgun. But he did most of the shooting with the weapon used in so many other rampages that shocked the nation:

Sandy Hook: Adam Lanza killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, with the AR-15 in December 2012.

Aurora: James Holmes opened fire with an AR-15 in July 2012 in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, killing 12 people, authorities said.

Portland: Jacob Tyler Roberts stole an AR-15 and killed two people in a mall food court in December 2012.

Santa Monica: John Zawahri allegedly pieced together an AR-15-type gun and went on a rampage that started at his father’s home and ended at Santa Monica College in June. Five people were killed.

With Monday’s incident, the gun will likely be in the crosshairs again. And again, it’s likely nothing will change.

More or fewer guns

Advocates for tighter gun laws don’t want to see the semi-automatic cousin of the infantry issue M16 machine gun in the hands of civilians.

“Almost every mass shooting involves an AR-15 assault rifle,” Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford told CNN’s Piers Morgan on Monday night.

“It’s the preferred mass shooter’s weapon of choice,” added Lunsford, who was wounded by Maj. Nidal Hasan during the Ft. Hood shooting in 2009.

“But I don’t see a logical reason why any civilian needs to have one of these killing machines.”

Gun ownership proponents, on the other hand, say the solution lies in more guns, not fewer.

That’s precisely the point CNN commentator and pro-gun activist Ben Ferguson made to Morgan.

Armed security guards aren’t enough, he said. Once a gunman gets past them, they are no longer effective.

“When you allow a military base to be infiltrated by an individual like this, and at that point he has free reign,” Ferguson said.

Had the contractor and civilians working in the Navy Yard been armed, they could have gunned down the gunman and stopped the shooting quickly.

Morgan, who has dedicated many hours of his show to gun violence in the United States, did not seem hopeful that there will be a resolution soon to the controversial issue, even after the latest slaughter.

“I want the day to come where we don’t have to have this ridiculous debate time and again in America,” he said in frustration. “I just cannot have this debate anymore. It is ridiculous.”

Efficient but deadly

The AR-15 is an efficient killing machine that originated as a U.S. Army rifle, military documents say. At the time, it was a fully automatic weapon.

The Army tested it as early as 1958.

It was said to be more effective than its predecessor, the M14, and showed distinct advantages against the AK-47, the weapon carried by the United States’ opponent in the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong.

It led to a surge in military purchases during the mid-1960’s. Eventually the AR-15 was further developed into the M16 rifle.

The original M16 patent ran out years ago, and now the AR-15 is manufactured by several gun makers.

The AR-15 has since become a semiautomatic rifle, firing one bullet per squeeze of the trigger. But like the M16, ammunition is loaded through a magazine.

In the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, police say Lanza’s rifle used numerous 30-round magazines.

An AR-15 is usually capable of firing a rate of 45 rounds per minute in semiautomatic mode.

Under the 1994 federal ban on such weapons, buying some variants of new AR-15s was against the law. The ban expired in 2004.

It’s easy to get an AR-15. They can be purchased online or in a gun store. Aaron Alexis legally purchased the one he used in the Navy Yard.

Early Tuesday, one online retailer had a special running: Plunk down $999, and it can be delivered in 10 days.

Political deadlock

The gunfire in the nation’s capital quickly drew echoes from Washington politicians.

Some of them renewed their calls for restrictions on semiautomatic weapons.

“When will enough be enough?” said Sen. Diane Feinstein in a statement Monday.

The California Democrat is one of the strongest proponents of a ban on assault rifles. She called for Congressional action. “We must do more to stop this endless loss of life,” she said.

The new mass shooting is nothing new, bemoaned Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. “We are becoming far too familiar with senseless, tragic violence. This is the seventh shooting since 2009, and these repeated incidents demand our attention,” he said.

But their words will likely fade away, said Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The broad support for gun ownership in Congress is too strong.

He doesn’t think the shooting will be enough to sway the 60 votes a gun control measure would need to break a Republican filibuster.

Efforts to push gun control legislation through Congress led by Vice President Joe Biden after the Sandy Hook tragedy have run aground.

The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment Monday. The gun rights organization has typically not responded to similar shootings immediately.

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