The recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard has shocked the public and as a result, the newspaper are calling for stricter legislation, control and security for government buildings. While the suspect has been identified and killed, the gun control policies of the country, as well as the criminal justice system, need to be reviewed in order to prevent similar crimes from occurring. I, like the rest of the country, stood shocked and confused, asking myself: how could this happen in a government agency? Initially, I thought that gun legislation was to blame, however, after looking through the reports, I think that security checks within government agencies should be tightened in accordance with the legislation first. The below reflective reaction paper looks into the circumstances of the shooting, as well as the security of government buildings, handgun licensing and gun law to find out whether stricter legislation would result in lower levels of gun crime in the US.
According to CNN reports, 12 people were killed and 8 injured in the rampage of the IT contractor, Aaron Alexis, on the morning of the 16th of September (Starr, Shoicet and Brown). Aaron Alexis was armed with an AR-15. Alexis had previously been arrested for discharging a firearm in Tarrant County in Texas, a few years ago, according to ThinkProgress. According to some experts, this arrest should have come up on his background check, but it was not flagged as relevant, as it happened in a different state. (Strasser) It should have come up during his background checks as a contractorm according to government building regulationa examined below. will read better if it says, “It should have come up because his possession of the firearm was illegal.”The AR 15 is currently banned in Washington DC. He was also arrested back in 2004 for shooting a car’s tires. According to a spokesmen, the gunman, Aaron Alexis, passed his background check to enter the Navy Yard. The above facts call for a review of the gun regulations and background checks within the country by government agencies. The debate on gun legislation is revived, as a result of the shocking events and media coverage, with many experts claiming that stricter checks should be issued in order to prevent the loss of innocent lives.
The response of the FBI to the events was, unfortunately, too late, and by the time the special agents of The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives entered the scene they were unable to save the 12 people. The emergency personnel responded to the events and shut down the area. However, while preventing further lives being lost, they were unable to save the 12 people who were initially shot (Starr, Shoicet and Brown). The response of the law enforcement agencies was reactive, instead of preventative, and this is the focal point of the recent debate about gun legislation. The background checks of the Navy were not effective enough to identify threat.
The US Navy Regulation 1159 (1997) states that “no person in the naval service shall:
- have concealed about his or her person any dangerous weapon, instrument or device, or any highly explosive article or compound; or
- have in his or her possession any dangerous weapon, instrument or device or any highly explosive article or compound on board any ship, craft, aircraft, or in any vehicle of the naval service or within any base or other place under naval jurisdiction.”
While the regulation is strict, the question is, why was Aaron Alexis still able to enter the Washington Navy Yard with three handguns? Furthermore, how was he able to pass his background checks, which, obviously were not effective enough? Further legislation issued by President Clinton (1993) tightened gun restrictions at Army and Navy bases. This legislation states that “The authorization to carry firearms will be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or Department of the Army (DA) assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried.” If the regulations were adhered to, the crime would never have taken place.
Wlliam Krouse confirms that there is a political debate that started at the 112th Congress regarding the questions: “What restrictions on firearms are permissible under the Constitution? Does gun control constitute crime control?” (6). Proponents of gun legislation tightening call for policy changes related to specific types of firearms. While fully automated firearms are currently banned unless registered before 1986 (7), some small handguns are still allowed with permission. Opponents, on the other hand, claim that criminals are able to get hold of firearms without permission, and there is no long term benefit associated with stricter legislation. Indeed, the Navy Yard shooter used illegal weapons to kill 12 people and injure 8, and he would possibly not have been able to if the security and background checks of the government agency were stricter.
Prevention of gun crime can be approached two ways. Some claim that tightening the conditions of gun possession permits would result in lower crime rates. Still, in the case of the Navy Yard shooting, it was not the gun legislation that failed but the security and background checks. The shooter had previously been arrested for gun related crimes. Still, according to ThinkProgress , he would still have been able to legally possess a firearm, as the permanent restriction only applies to specific types of people, like domestic abusers, felons, and those suffering from mental illness. (Strasser) As a general rule, prevention should always be prioritized in the criminal justice system. The initiatives of the President dating back to January 2013 call for strengthening the background check system, banning military-style assault weapons and giving law enforcement bodies further tools of prevention. This would certainly make it easier to spot criminals and potential dangers related to guns in the future.
While the shocking events of September 2013 are not the first gun tragedies of the new century, they have resulted in the revival of the gun legislation debate. It is evident that security and background checks were not effective enough in this case, and this resulted in the loss of lives. In line with the President’s initiatives (Obama 3) , appropriate measures should be created to strengthen not only the gun legislation but the preventive tools available for law enforcement.
Krouse, William. “Gun Control Legislation” Congressional Research Service. Web. 29 Sept. 2013
Military Police. “Carrying of Firearms and Use of Force for Law Enforcement and Security Duties” Army Regulation 190–14 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2013
Obama, Barack. “Now Is the Time” The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence.’’ The White House. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013
Starr, Barbara Shoichet, Catherine, Brown, Pamela “12 Victims Slain In Navy Yard Shooting Rampage; Dead Suspect Id’d” CNN. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013
Strasser, Anne-Rose. “How Gun Laws Factor Into The Navy Yard Shooting” ThinkProgress. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013
Tuccille, J. “Washington Navy Yard Already Suffers the Restrictions That Gun Control Advocates Favor” Reason.com 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013
“US Navy Regulation 1159 Chapter 11” General Regulations. 1993. Web. 29 Sept. 2013