More Guns Isn't the Answer to the Aaron Alexis Rampage


On Tuesday, police released the names of seven of the victims killed in Monday's mass shooting at the Navy Yard in D.C. While the nation takes a solemn moment to remember those fallen civilian workers, questions are also arising and a years-old debate is starting again. Should military bases be gun-free zones?

A gun-free zone is an area where only authorized personnel are allowed to carry guns, and even then there is a restriction on the type of gun that can be carried. Military installations are gun-free zones due to a regulation implemented by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The areas we most commonly associate with being gun-free zones are schools. 

The implication of this question, of course, is that if guns had been allowed at the Navy Yard, the shooter could have been stopped more quickly or possibly before anyone was hurt. The same argument surfaced after last year's Sandy Hook shooting. If teachers had been allowed to carry guns, people said, then innocent children would not have died.

The problem with that argument is that it assumes a loaded gun is the only way to stop a deranged gunman. In August, Antoinette Tuff, a teacher at an Atlanta-area elementary school, walked up to a man brandishing an assault rifle and talked him out of shooting anyone. She is obviously an extreme example, but her example shows that gunmen can sometimes be reasoned with. The old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" also applies in this case. If security had worked the way it should have at the Navy Yard, Aaron Alexis would have been stopped before he even entered the building.  

As Chris Hayes pointed out Monday night, the argument that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is flawed. Alexis was a former member of the military and a self-proclaimed Buddhist. He is the last person anyone would have suspected to go on a shooting rampage. Before Monday, he likely would have been considered a good guy with a gun.

And a good guy with a gun can easily turn into a bad guy with a gun. The solution to mass shootings is obviously not readily apparent, otherwise things like this would not keep happening. But flooding society with more guns is surely not the answer.