Facts of Navy Yard shooting undermine gun control arguments

Media Guide to the AR-15

In the initial flurry of hasty, largely incorrect reports about the horrific Navy Yard shooting this week, the infamous AR-15 again reared its evil, black, “military-grade” head. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it was not in the deadly bogeyman fashion the media expected and reported. An AR-15 rifle was later said to be found at the scene, but no one has seen one since.

CNN and many other outlets seized upon the initial report of the AR-15 and ran with it, even calling the weapon an “AR-15 shotgun”, which does not exist. In fact, the shooter did attempt to purchase an AR-15 rifle last week in Virginia, but he was prevented from doing so by state law, since he was from out of state. Instead, he bought a shotgun, which is legal to purchase for out-of-state residents, and went about his murderous ways. This stunning sequence of events undermines nearly every gun control talking point being used right now.

First, and perhaps most dramatically, the high-capacity magazine bogeyman has been destroyed. This man was able to kill 12 people (the same number that died in the Aurora theater shooting) with a Remington 870 shotgun that holds at most four shells. It’s unclear yet whether he reloaded the shotgun or was able to kill multiple people with just a few shots due to the spread pattern of the pellets from each shell.

Either way, he didn’t need a high-capacity magazine to kill a large number of people. He didn’t even need a semi-automatic rate of fire - the Remington 870, as with most shotguns, requires a pump to eject the fired shell between each trigger pull. Unless gun control advocates are going to attempt a ban on shotguns, they can’t possibly hope to prevent mass shootings. The criminally insane will just find another weapon, as we learned so tragically this week.

The Vice President, on the other hand, has recommended you buy a shotgun, the deadly weapon used in this heinous crime. Could Mr Biden have been complicit in this deadly act? I kid, of course, but one must in the face of such absurdity. Biden suggested women buy a shotgun for protection instead of the AR-15 they were trying to ban after the Newtown massacre. I suppose he will have to find a new type of weapon to suggest now. Perhaps a crossbow?

Not only was the Navy Yard shooter prevented from buying the AR-15, he passed a background check to buy the shotgun. Despite his history of mental illness and arrests for gun crimes, the shooter raised no red flags with the federal background check system and walked out of the store with the shotgun and two boxes of shells. The problem here isn’t even that the background check itself failed, it’s that such a system inherently fails. Mass shooters invariably have no history of violence, and only severe mental illness associated with hospitalization will prevent someone from buying a gun. To further drive home the point, the shooter, a former Navy reservist, still had a security clearance that allowed him access to the facility. If we can’t even screen restricted military installations well enough to prevent this, we can’t possibly hope to do so with a simple background check, universal or not.

The Navy Yard murderer’s weapon of choice and passed background checks stop the gun control arguments in their tracks. However, the one common factor among all mass shootings that we actually can do something about as communities and a nation without violating any Constitutional rights is, necessarily, mental illness. No assault weapons ban, universal background check, ammunition restriction, or gun-free zone is going to stop an insane person from wreaking havok on our society. The only thing that will is mental health understanding, diagnosis, and treatment.


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