We’re all going to make mistakes. You just have to decide what mistakes you want to make.
Here we are - another day, another mass shooting.
This time 12 people in the Washington D.C. Navy Yard were killed along with the gunman.
This guy should have also been stopped before the shooting ever happened. No new gun control laws were needed. Somehow a man with obvious mental and social issues was never treated properly and thus he was still able to obtain not only a gun license, but a security clearance.
No system is foolproof when corners are being cut.
Any time there is a mass killing like this, you can assume mental illness was involved. Unfortunately in most cases, this is how we discover how crazy the perpetrators are.
But in the case of Aaron Alexis, we had ample warning. Sure he heard voices and thought people were talking to him through walls and floors. Sure he contacted authorities when he had paranoid thoughts of being followed recently. But this man went beyond paranoia and being a little wacky.
Alexis has had at least two incidents where his brand of crazy led him to use a gun improperly.
Once he shot the tires out of a truck in a rage. Another time, he fired a bullet through the ceiling of his apartment to send a message to his neighbor.
The police saw through his story of the gun accidentally firing while he was taking it apart while he was cooking and charged him. But he was never convicted.
Despite all of these very clear examples that this man was not going to be a “responsible gun owner,” he was able to walk into a gun store and try out an AR-15 and purchase a gun and plenty of ammunition to carry out his mission.
There were plenty of laws in place to prevent this. The system could have at least prevented him from buying a new gun and a brick of ammunition.
But like speed limits, without enforcement, gun control laws are just suggestions.
I don’t guess anyone ever wants to be the one to “hassle” a person who seems crazy.
I have very specific experience in this area.
When I was the editor of my hometown newspaper, we had a woman who lived downtown and walked around wearing an aluminum foil beanie hat.
She came in my office several times to complain that a local company was shooting radiation into her uterus and she worried that different people in town were trying to control her thoughts. I was in my late 20s at the time and thought she was a cute kind of crazy. I assured her that I would look into her issues with these local groups and she took comfort that someone was “helping” her with her issue. She then told me about being secretly married to Peter Jennings and he talked to her every night during his newscast.
Page 2 of 2 - She wasn’t hurting anyone. She was just a bubble or so off level.
But then her notes to me started to turn angrier and more threatening. Not threatening to me, of course. I was helping her.
But she ended up threatening to stop people from attacking her brain and shooting radiation into her in any way necessary. At that point, I contacted our local police chief.
The woman had stopped taking her medicine because psychotropic drugs often make their users feel bad physically.
I worried she would hurt herself or start something that resulted in her being hurt.
She then began to threaten the President and others in authority. Her silliness had become craziness.
Our local police chief was also the President of the Chamber of Commerce, so we contacted the secret service and he arranged a meeting with her in my office with them nearby. Under the ruse of a meeting with local business leaders she clearly described acts of violence she thought were necessary.
At that point, she was taken into custody by a secret service agent who was also one of my best friends from college and is currently the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. (I’m sure he is jealous of me. He was a great athlete who is a great looking guy and should one day be Governor of Oklahoma. But I get to write columns in newspapers.)
I felt bad for the woman. She was clearly disturbed. Even having the desire to hurt the President, I don’t believe she had the resources or mental faculties to accomplish it.
But I hassled her. Because I thought that was the thing to do to keep her from hurting someone else or causing injury for herself.
I never heard about her again.
But she never made the news by doing anything outlandish and she couldn’t go purchase a gun.
If only someone had hassled Aaron Alexis and got him the help he needed twelve people and Alexis himself would be alive today.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org