NAVSEA Building 197 Was Hit Because Mentally Ill Aaron Alexis Could Buy a Gun
A Navy contractor is responsible for the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Aaron Alexis, 34, had been suffering from a range of mental health issues including paranoia, PTSD, and hallucinations. According to his father, Alexis suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), explaining that Alexis actively participated in rescue efforts on 9/11. His father further mentioned that Alexis had severe anger issues, telling officials that Seattle Police arrested Alexis for allegedly shooting the tires of a car over a parking issue in 2004; Alexis subsequently described the incident as a "blackout." Twelve people died and eight wounded before Alexis was shot and killed in a gun battle with the police.
The Associated Press reports that Alexis "had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems." However, the Navy did not declare him mentally unfit, which permitted him access onto the Navy installation and started firing in the building. The Veterans Administration acted irresponsibly by allowing Alexis to act as a Navy contractor despite his host of mental problems, including PTSD, blackout incidences, and anger management. The nation needs to take action to limit access to firearms for all veterans who are currently on anti-depressants and suffer from PTSD who have acted unpredictably or violently, for their own safety as well as that of their colleagues.
According to a Newport, R.I., police report, about a month before the shooting, Alexis called the police in Rhode Island to complain that he had changed hotels three times because he was being stalked by people keeping him awake by sending vibrations through the walls, as New York Times reports. This incident, along with others, weren't enough to discharge him from the military or admit him into a mental institution.
Apparently, Alexis had sought treatment from two Virginia hospitals.
"He talked about it," said friend Melinda Downs. "He said he went to Virginia and they would give him some medicine."
Five days after receiving Trazodone, an anti-depressant, in Providence, Alexis was prescribed more Trazodone by doctors at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington because of his insomnia. Trazodone is an anti-depressant with side effects including "agitation, hallucinations, overactive reflexes, nausea, diarrhea, loss of coordination."
“These incidents...suggest to me a very flawed system for granting security clearances,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, as New York Times reports.
Despite Alexis' countless misconducts and mental health conditions, he had still been overlooked by the system. The Defense Department is responsible for his permissible access to the Navy and for his security clearance. Those who are suffering from mental health disorders should not have access to firearms. More importantly, a person's mental health history needs to be taken seriously in the evaluation of work status.