It’s So Much Easier To Blame The Gun

By Max McGuire

The Gun Did It
It’s So Much Easier To Blame The Gun

New Jersey –-( We all knew this was coming.

Before the victims the Navy Yard shooting had been identified, gun control proponents were already making their case.

In a statement released early Monday evening, Dianne Feinstein — author of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban — urged Congress to “stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country.”

Actor Henry Winkler — of Happy Days fame — was one of the many in Hollywood to politicize the tragedy. And most predictably, CNN’s Piers Morgan devoted almost all of his show on Monday night to the shooting and him repeatedly calling for a Federal ban on AR-15 rifles.

With only a day removed from the tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard, it is impossible to know all the details surrounding the shooting. But even in the first 24 hours, it is clear that the weapon itself is not the true problem.

First of all, Aaron Alexis should have been barred from owning firearms. In a perfect world, he would have been. In 2004, he was arrested in Seattle for shooting a man’s tires out in a drunken “blackout” rage. Alexis was arrested and charged with “malicious mischief,” a misdemeanor, but was never brought to trial or convicted. The Seattle City Attorney blames the lack of prosecution on the police who failed to forward them the report. Even so, a malicious mischief charge would not necessarily have prohibited Alexis from owning a firearm.

If the prosecution was determined to keep weapons out of the hands of people who blackout and shoot up the neighborhood, they could have pressed for felony charges…

Then in 2010, Aaron Alexis was accused of negligently discharging his firearm within the city limits of Fort Worth, Texas. Alexis contends that his firearm accidentally discharged during cleaning, though his neighbor believes that the shot through her floor was intentional. The city attorney again failed to follow up on the police report, however that still would not have barred him from owning a firearm. Federal law defines a prohibited person as anyone who is “under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Since Fort Worth’s firearm discharge ordinance is punishable by only a hefty fine, even a conviction wouldn’t have prohibited Aaron Alexis from owning a firearm.

Another interesting charge making its rounds on Twitter is that Aaron Alexis was a concealed carry permit holder in the State of Texas. The idea that concealed weapons holders are a threat to society is nothing new. Organizations like the Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action routinely vilify concealed carry holders. The Violence Policy Center ( ) even went as far as compiling a list of all concealed carry permit holders implicated in a homicide or manslaughter case. The problem is, this information is only valuable if an individual commits a crime while carrying a concealed weapon. The chances of Aaron Alexis concealing his shotgun are slim.

Then there is the fact that Aaron Alexis was discharged from the Navy for what has only been referred to as a “pattern of misconduct.” At this point in time, it remains unknown why Aaron Alexis was discharged from the Navy. Some pundits have hypothesized that Alexis was discharged in 2011 for the alleged negligent firearm discharge in Texas the previous year. Regardless of the reason for his discharge, the fact remains that a ‘dishonorable discharge' from the Navy would have barred Alexis from owning a firearm, according to the Gun Control Act of 1968. According to Navy officials, Alexis received a ‘general discharge' in January of 2011. While a general discharge is not as bad as a ‘dishonorable discharge,’ it remains less honorable than an ‘honorable discharge.'

Obviously the Navy had its reasons for discharging Alexis accordingly, but one can only wonder about the what-ifs…

There is also the issue of how a less-honorably discharged Navy Petty Officer, with a history of anger-fueled gun crimes, could possibly receive a secret-level security clearance necessary to work as a contractor at the Navy Yard. It is believed that Alexis’ security clearance was first authorized in 2007, long after his ‘blackout’ induced shooting in Seattle. However even with a publicly available arrest report, Alexis was still granted a security clearance. The 2011 discharge incident, while important in hindsight, would hardly have been enough to take away his clearance. Still, one would have hoped that a thorough examination into Alexis’ background would have disqualified him from holding or maintaining a security clearance.

The blame also rests with President Bill Clinton. In 1993, Clinton decreed that military personnel were prohibited from carrying firearms for personal protection unless a “specific threat against [Army] personnel [exists] in that region.” After the 2009 Fort Hood “Incident of Work-Place Violence,” the Washington Times famously quipped that the Clinton-era firearm restriction made it so that terrorists would “face more return fire if they attacked a Texas Wal-Mart than the gunman faced at Fort Hood.”

While pundits like Piers Morgan are quick to point out that unlike Sandy Hook, the Washington Navy Yard had armed guards, Clinton’s firearm restrictions make the installation — for all intents and purposes — a gun-free zone. And given the US Military’s recent propensity to outsource bases’ watchtower security to African soldiers, base security under the Obama administration remains imperfect.

Given all of these potential factors to blame, at last we arrive at the firearm itself. Surely (we are told), this atrocity would not have happened if “military style” firearms were prohibited to civilians. We repeatedly hear this talking point as pundits like Rachel Maddow and Piers Morgan remind us that the AR-15 used by Aaron Alexis was also the weapon of choice in the Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT mass shootings. However if an NBC news report is correct, Aaron Alexis entered the Navy Yard with a Joe Biden-approved shotgun and only obtained an AR-15 and pistol as he killed armed victims. No amount of assault weapons bans or background checks can stop someone from ambushing a police officer and seizing his weapons. Then again, Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed a police officer with a stolen gun and he was eulogized as a ‘victim of gun violence' by Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

This is only a short list of what/who to blame for the Washington Navy Yard Shooting. Obviously, it is not exhaustive. As more evidence emerges and the public gets a glimpse into Aaron Alexis’ motives and mental state, the understanding of the tragedy will inevitably change. Even so, the weapon itself seems to be a senary (sixth) causal variable, not even including Alexis’ individual decision making. The fact remains that despite a plethora of gun laws on the books, lax enforcement and nonexistent prosecution failed to place Aaron Alexis on the list of prohibited persons. A harsher discharge from the Navy would have had the same effect and potentially disqualified him from holding a security clearance and gaining access to the Navy Yard. The one gun control law that did have an effect — prohibiting carrying weapons in the Navy Yard — did nothing to deter the shooter but did serve to disarm trained military personnel, leaving them completely hamstrung.

Given all of these causal factors, not to mention the issues of mental health, discussing the gun itself should be the last topic on the agenda.

Before we talk about disarming the American people, lets figure out how a petty officer with a history of misconduct and anger-induced weapons crimes could gain employment in a secure military base and bring a loaded weapon not only onto the installation, but also into the District of Columbia where loaded weapons are explicitly outlawed. Let’s talk about how Aaron Alexis is just one of the many examples of how gun crimes are either not prosecuted or reduced through plea deals. Let’s talk about how a sailor can be discharged for less-than-honorable reasons, only to be hired as a contractor within a year. Let’s talk about how current law dictates that the people with some of the most advanced firearm training in the world are not even trusted enough to carry a holstered weapon on US soil. Let’s talk about mental health, societal decay, gang violence, and the other conditions that lead individuals to take a life regardless of the weapon.

If we only talk about guns whenever a tragedy occurs, we are never going to solve our society’s root problems. Focusing on guns may treat the symptoms, but it will do nothing to cure the disease that is ripping our inner-cities apart. If we stopped trying to blame an inanimate object for our country’s problems and focused on issues like economic inequality and education, we could actually get somewhere. But combating these socio-economic problems means shining the spotlight on decades of failed Democratic policies that stifle growth and foster dependency.

For Democrats, it’s a lot easier to blame “military style assault weapons” and “high capacity clips.”

About SanityPolitic' Max Mcguire;
Max McGuire is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Political Science at Villanova University. He graduated from Boston College, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Arabic Studies. Follow him on Twitter@SanityPolitics

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