Federal gun laws didn't block shooter

Navy Yard shooting prompts new round of calls for action from lawmakers
Associated Press
Sep 17, 2013

The gunman in the mass shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, Aaron Alexis, had a history of violent outbursts, was at least twice accused of firing guns in anger and was in the early stages of treatment for serious mental problems, according to court records and U.S. law enforcement officials.

But Alexis apparently managed to exploit seams in the nation's patchwork of complicated gun laws designed to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people to buy a weapon. He was able to buy a shotgun in Virginia with out-of-state identification, even though that would have prevented him from buying a handgun.

It is illegal for gun dealers to sell handguns to such out-of-state buyers, but the Firearms Owners' Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1986, opened up interstate sales for shotguns and rifles. Virginia gun laws require only that an out-of-state buyer show valid identification, pass a background check and otherwise abide by state laws in order to buy a shotgun in the state. Alexis was never prosecuted for the two misdemeanors involving guns.

Alexis bought the shotgun at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Va. on Sunday, according to a statement from the attorney for the gun range.

Michael Slocum said in an email that Alexis rented a rifle, bought bullets and used the range before buying the shotgun and 24 shells. Slocum said Alexis passed a federal background check.

Law enforcement officials visited the range Monday, reviewing the store's video and other records.

"What the 1986 Firearms Owners' Protection Act did was it made it more convenient for gun buyers," said Kristen Rand, the legislative director at the Violence Policy Center. "That's the road we've been on for a while: The convenience of gun owner always seems to trump the right of victims not to be shot."

Federal gun laws bar the mentally ill from legally buying guns from licensed dealers. But the law requires that someone be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility or declared mentally ill by a judge, and that information must be reported to the FBI in order to appear on a background checks. In the wake of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, state authorities changed state laws to make it tougher for the mentally ill to buy guns there.

But like other recently accused mass shooters, Alexis was never declared mentally ill by a judge or committed to a hospital. He was being treated by the Veterans Administration as recently as August, according to two law enforcement officials, but the Navy had not declared him mentally unfit.

The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung Hi Cho, was declared mentally ill by a judge, but nobody ever reported it to federal authorities to get him included in the database of banned purchasers.

After the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, U.S. lawmakers pushed to overhaul gun laws. Among the proposals was a ban on military-style rifles, including the popular AR-15, and high-capacity ammunition magazines. There was also a plan to expand background checks to make sure anyone who wanted a gun got the approval of the federal government.

No legislation has moved forward in Congress, despite urgent pleas from the president, some lawmakers and victims' families.

President Barack Obama has made a few narrow administrative changes, but those are not likely to impact the kinds of guns most often found at crime scenes.

Asked Tuesday about whether the shooting would renew consideration of new gun laws, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president hasn't stopped pushing for reform, was making executive changes to federal rules and reiterated his commitment to strengthening gun laws, including expanding background checks to sales online and at gun shows.

"He has not in the least hidden his displeasure and disappointment in Congress for its failure to pass legislation that's supported by 80 percent to 90 percent of the American people," Carney told reporters. "You could not define a case of Congress — or a minority in Congress, a minority in the Senate — taking its cues from a narrow special interest, better than this."

Monday's shooting prompted a new round of calls for action from lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D.-W.Va., the author of a bill on background checks, both said they would like to see a vote on the background checks bill, but the votes aren't there for passage at this time.

Still, Reid said he hopes to get another gun control vote this year. "I don't want any more bad things to happen, you know. Something's going to have to get the attention of these characters who don't want any controls."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading advocate for tougher gun control in the Senate, said in a statement that the shooting "is one more event to add to the litany of massacres."

"Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life," she said.

Some congressional Democrats and family members of shooting victims planned to gather at the Capitol on Wednesday to renew their push for background check legislation. The trip, organized by the Newtown Action Alliance, was previously planned to mark the nine-month anniversary of the Connecticut school shooting.

For Obama, it was at least the seventh mass shooting of his presidency, and he mourned the victims while speaking at the White House on Monday.

"We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital," Obama said. "It's a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job protecting all of us. They're patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn't have expected here at home."

 

Comments

Darwin's choice

He used the shotgun to shoot an officer, and take the officers AR-15, he did not purchase it. That was left out of the story. But, I'm sure that will be fodder for the advocates for gun control.....

coasterfan

Nope, Darwin. The fodder is self-evident. Guns were once again used for a mass killing. For me, end of story.

Darwin's choice

So, hide your head in the sand, you'll be safe with obama.

Darwin's choice

1000 stright days of gasoline prices ABOVE $3.00 a gallon. You should be so proud of the massive Obama failure!

Democrat proud!

deertracker

So exactly how did that protection from the security guard work out? This is about mental health not gun violence or gun control. There's no need to start with the Obama comments.

JudgeMeNot

If Obama had a psychotic homicidal gun-toting younger brother he'd look like Aaron Alexis.

looking around

How so dumb a$$?

Mum-of-One

For the past 20 years, studies have consistently estimated that almost half of all individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are receiving no treatment for their mental illness at any given time. According to recent estimates, this means that approximately 3.5 million such individuals are receiving no treatment. We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.

looking around

We have to re-register our vehicles every year, re-new our drivers licenses every five years we pay a fee to cover these costs. Many other licenses and permits as well are held to a renewal where questions may be asked regarding ones mental capacity, medical condition, drug dependency, problems with infractions of law. Some renewals require a physical examination by a doctor whom will look for signs and perform tests to determine if anything seems wrong. These are done at the expense of the individual, time lines between examinations vary on circumstance. In some cases further or recurrent training is required. I see no reason why gun ownership shouldn't be monitored in the same manner. Where in the constitution does it say that you have an unconditional right to own and bare arms irregardless of mental incapacity or failure to be a law abiding citizen or have not received proper training? I don't give a rat what the NRA or the gun lovers say it's time to take action make some responsible changes to current laws. I would go one further, If you own and store weapons you should by law be required to maintain an insurance policy wherein it would be stated how these weapons would be safely stored. Funds from these policy's would be used to provide services to victims of crimes committed with stolen firearms. All at the expense of the gun owner.

coasterfan

Agree 100% with Looking Around. Polls show that more than 90% of Americans favor increased background checks for gun purchases, yet the NRA struts around as if they are the voice of the people. The gun industry has an obvious reason to oppose common sense gun control, since it would hurt their sales. The NRA is their irresponsible media shill, and their policies only make America a less safe place for us all.

Darwin's choice

Common sense will tell you that where there's a will there's a way. If not a gun, a knife, or car. Typical knee jerk from the head jerk.

abigbear

IT IS NOT THE GUNS that are KILLING PEOPLE
in all fairness please read http://www.thesmokinggun.com/bus...

deertracker

@looking
Agreed!

grumpy

"We have to re-register our vehicles every year, re-new our drivers licenses every five years we pay a fee to cover these costs."

None of which are Constitutional rights. Guns, actually handguns NFA firearms, and FFL's are the only things that are protected by the Constitution that require a license. A drivers license is a privilege, not a right, let alone a Constitutional right.

deertracker

You are right grumpy but this is the 21st century. We need to adjust to the times!

JudgeMeNot

This man was fueled by hate and the entitlement mentality promoted by the democraps and the media.

looking around

And you know this how dumb a$$?

looking around

Many Constitutional Rights are governed by laws and or regulations, there is a reason, it guards against abuse....and at the same time protects the rights of others.

Simple Enough II

Because owning a weapon is a right, drving a vehicle is a privilege.

sandtown born a...

Delusional to think any law will keep a firearm out of the hands of a person with the ill intent.

looking around

If gun ownership required more responsibility and had consequences for those that were irresponsible, less weapons would fall into the hands of those with ill intent.

2cents

"If gun ownership required more responsibility"

I think the same should go for violent video games these yahoos use to train themselves with how to kill without a conscience!

Simple Enough II

Those laws and penalties are out there.

coasterfan

I advocate an all-of-the-above approach. Tighten background checks to cover ALL purchases, to keep more guns out of the wrong hands in the first place. Enforce already existing gun control laws, and increase penalties for all occasions in which the laws are broken. Outlaw sales of assault rifles to the general public (until the deer start shooting back, no one needs something that shoots a zillion rounds a minute). Increase funding for mental health screenings (this would require Republicans to support increased funding for something, of course).

Darwin's choice

More blathering from the Obamabot. More legislation doesn't work.

Simple Enough II

Agreed.

arnmcrmn

An assault rifle is just like my 200 dollar semi .22LR (wood stock with a clip) except it looks all military like. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you are going to spout off information, please spout off the correct stuff.

And here you go again. You want everyone else to pay for someone's problems.

looking around

Not me! I want the gun owners to pay their own freight to exercise their second amendment rights. You want to own a gun pay for required training, background checks, continued renewal of permits on a calendar basis, provide safe secure storage. Tie your name as with Motor Vehicles to the national data base, you have a problem with law you need to report the infraction within thirty days even if you have not already heard from authorities so that your status can be reviewed. If you have a medical issue that is listed as being mandatory to report do it or be prepared to have your right revoked. Your gun is missing? It's your responsibility to report it and be answerable for the circumstances it became missing. Me pay for your problems? Not with my life.......

JudgeMeNot

PREDICTION: Liberal idiots like you will keep preaching gun control which causes more Americans to buy AR-15's. you lose.

looking around

We will see!

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