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A national tragedy needs a calm response

THE nation mourns the tragic death of 12 innocent people on Monday at the Navy Yard - the Navy's headquarters - in Washington.

This is a horrible event that Americans do not wish to repeat. The nation must act, but first the public needs to review the facts:

  • The man who killed the people, Aaron Alexis, 34, had a troubled past that included gunplay.
  • Navy officials did not pursue a general discharge for Alexis because the process is cumbersome.
  • Because he had an honorable discharge, the Navy gave him headquarters access as a contract employee.
  • Alexis heard voices and should have received treatment.
  • Mass shootings of four or more people accounted for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all murders in the last 30 years, according to Bloomberg News.
  • The homicide rate is headed for a century low, according to Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine.
  • Gun laws would likely disarm criminals about as well as marijuana laws keep teens from getting pot.
  • Calls for more gun control in light of this tragedy are exploitative and may miss the point.

    While expanding background checks may help keep some guns out of the hands of criminals, the restrictions also apply to people with mental illness. Would this not give people pause before seeking treatment?

    The military needs to review its discharge procedures.

    The nation needs a comprehensive approach to mass murders.

    The nation also needs to improve mental health treatment, which changed about 30 years ago to a philosophy of least restrictive treatment.

    From a peak of 559,000 public psychiatric beds a few years ago, the nation is down to 43,000.

    Guns alone did not kill 12 people at the Navy Yard on Monday. Aaron Alexis did. The nation needs to remember that and act accordingly. 


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