New Castle News

September 27, 2013

Our Opinion: Real message from shooting rampage will be ignored

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Whenever there is a mass shooting in America, the tragedy is typically followed by a series of recriminations and revelations.

And it’s not just the typical back and forth over the issue of gun violence. There are always plenty of after-the-fact assessments of what could have — or should have — been done to prevent the shooting.

Sometimes, these assessments provide useful guidance that might prevent a similar tragedy. At other times, they are trivial and silly, either impractical for the real world or the product of assorted ideological views.

But in the case of Aaron Alexis, the gunman who killed 12 people during a Sept. 16 shooting spree at Washington’s Naval Yard, that aftermath has provided jaw-dropping information. Namely, how could this obviously disturbed individual be able to access weapons and have security clearance at a military installation?

It’s no great surprise the shooter in this case suffered from mental illness. Inevitably, anyone who does such a thing has to be seriously disturbed. These are not the actions of a rational individual or even someone who is angry about something.

In that regard, this tragedy is another reminder of how this nation is failing to address the problem of mental illness. It’s not simply a matter of acting to prevent future shootings; it’s also a case of finding ways to assist those who are suffering. Only a tiny fraction of people who are mentally ill perpetrate these horrendous crimes. Countless other suffer in obscurity.

In the case of Alexis, there were assorted red flags that — at the very least — ought to have denied him access to the Navy Yard. Here is a man who had various run-ins with the law. And one who had complained of hearing voices and having messages directed to him through radio waves.

Hearing voices and being tortured by them can be a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia. In the case of Alexis, it appears he viewed his attack as the final means of freeing himself from those voices — a shooting rampage that he expected would lead to his death.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, military officials said they will take steps to beef up security and better assess who should have clearance. Maybe this will prevent a similar incident in the future, but we presume that if Alexis had been unable to access the Navy Yard for his spree, he would have done the same thing elsewhere.

This incident and so many others like it ought to produce serious and somber soul searching in America about caring for the mentally ill and how easy it is for people such as Alexis to obtain weapons.

But we know nothing of consequence will happen. We also know there will be more mass killings.