US gunman’s history of mental problems revealed
The first reaction to Monday’s slaughter was stunned shock and pity. But today Americans are asking how such a clearly disturbed man had security clearance and access to guns.
On Monday the deadly gun rampage. Today the soul-searching. Anger and disbelief is sweeping America this morning over new disclosures that the seemingly deranged killer of 12 naval base workers, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, had given repeated clear signals to police and military authorities that he was deeply disturbed and dangerous.
An 11-strong reporting team from The New York Times, America’s most respected newspaper, will publish an investigation today with detailed evidence that Alexis should never have been allowed clearance to buy a gun, let alone work on a military base.
Only one month ago Alexis told US police that a person he had argued with at an airport in Virginia had sent three people to follow him, that they were harassing him with a microwave machine and he had heard voices speaking to him through the wall, flooring and ceiling of his hotel, according to the newspaper.
The report claims he had recently complained of mental health problems. He twice went to different military hospitals in the past few weeks seeking treatment for insomnia.
Alexis was also twice investigated by other police departments in shooting episodes, once in Texas for firing through his ceiling and another time in Seattle for shooting out a car’s tyres during what he described as ‘an anger-fuelled blackout’.
It has emerged this morning that he was also cited for misconduct eight times during his four- year career as a Navy reservist, including one incident where he hurled obscenities after being thrown out of a nightclub.
After the Seattle incident in 2004, Aaron's birth father Algernon told police that his son was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of witnessing the terror attack and the collapse of the twin towers at Ground Zero.
Despite all this he had clearance to work on military bases and no charges or reports were filed that would have shown up in his F.B.I. file so he was legally able to buy the weapon he used in the shooting on Monday.
America’s gun sickness
Today America will focus on how such a man was able to gain such easy access to the nerve centre of the US Navy. There will be inquiries into the entry-pass system, use of contractors and the like.
But many claim this will miss the point. America’s problem with guns, they argue, endangers the US not solely because it can lead military personnel to lose their lives or even to the murder of schoolchildren, as it did at Sandy Hook last year, but because it is ruinous to America’s standing in the world. For decades, this ‘soft power’ has been key to its ability to lead and persuade other nations and to impose peace on dangerous states such as Syria.
- Would you be less likely to go on holiday to America because of the widespread ownership of guns there?
- Do you agree that every time a disturbed or angry individual in the USA is able to vent his rage with an assault weapon, the power of America’s example fades a little more?
- Try to find out three numbers: (i) how many guns there are in America (ii) how many people there are in America and then (iii) work out what percentage of Americans own a gun.
- Imagine you are an American gun owner. Research the serious arguments in favour of keeping gun laws as they are in America. Write a letter to President Obama explaining why he should NOT change the law.
Some People Say...
“People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of American example than by the example of American power.’Bill Clinton”
What do you think?
Q & A
- I’m not in a military job so perhaps I don’t need to worry so much as some?
- The victims of this rampage were certainly not military types. The nine men and three women who were sprayed with bullets as they had breakfast ranged in age from 46 to 73. They included a financial analyst, a computer network security expert, a maintenance foreman and a logistics specialist. One of the victims, Arthur Daniels, 51, was installing furniture that day.
- Well, that’s America for you. I live in the UK.
- True, British gun control is much, much tighter. But you can never stop atrocities such as the killing of drummer Lee Rigby earlier this year in the streets of London. Some sociologists believe that horrific violence can spark other violence. And many people watch American media.
- Navy reservist
- The United States Navy Reserve, until 2005 known as the United States Naval Reserve, is the Reserve Component of the United States Navy. Members of the Navy Reserve are trained part-time personnel who can be called up in times of special need.
- Post traumatic stress disorder
- Commonly referred to as PTSD, it is a serious psychological illness that develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed something shocking.
- Soft power
- a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to persuade rather than use force or give money as a means of getting someone else to do what you want. Nye coined the term in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power.