President Barack Obama urged Americans during a memorial service for the 12 victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting to demand “common sense” gun control measures.
“It ought to obsess us,” Obama said. “It ought to lead to some sort of transformation.”
Obama didn’t mention specific changes. It was the fifth time in Obama’s five years at the White House that he’s acted as the nation’s consoler after a lone gunman committed mass murder.
As in each of those prior memorials -- Fort Hood, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; and Newtown, Connecticut -- Obama told stories about the people killed in the Sept. 16 shooting, about one mile from the U.S. Capitol. He also tried to focus the emotion of the moment into action for stricter gun laws, saying tears and prayers aren’t enough.
“Do we care enough to sustain the passion and the pressure to make our communities safer and our country safer?” Obama said during a speech to about 4,000 gathered at the facility. “Do we care enough to do everything we can to spare other families the pain that is felt here today?”
Congress hasn’t approved a significant gun-control bill since the assault-weapon ban expired in 2004. After 20 children and six adults were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Obama responded with a proposal to reinstate the assault-weapon ban and to mandate background checks for all gun buyers. A stripped-down version of the package failed to advance through the Senate, controlled by his fellow Democrats.
Navy Yard Shooting
Obama’s remarks today came less than a week after, authorities say, former Navy contractor Aaron Alexis entered the Naval Sea Systems Command with a concealed shotgun.
Alexis began shooting people on the fourth floor, then on the third floor and then he went to the lobby, where he shot a security guard and took the guard’s Beretta semi-automatic pistol, FBI Director James Comey said last week. After Alexis ran out of ammunition for the shotgun, he began shooting with the pistol, the director said.
It didn’t appear Alexis targeted a specific person, according to Comey.
U.S. investigators haven’t said what motivated Alexis, a 34-year-old who held a security clearance and valid pass to enter the building. He had an arrest record, a troubled military career and history of mental illness.
The shooting has sparked investigations around the federal government, as officials try to pinpoint how red flags were missed before the shootings, as well as probes from U.S. lawmakers into the procedures for background checks to obtain security clearances.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Alexis twice requested emergency treatment for insomnia in the month before the shooting. That was just a few weeks after he had summoned police to his Rhode Island hotel room complaining that he was hearing voices and being stalked by unseen harassers -- prompting a concerned officer to alert the local naval station.
There’s no evidence any of the incidents set off alarms. The Navy has found no sign that the police officer’s warning was communicated up the chain of command, a Navy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity about a continuing investigation. The VA said Alexis told its doctors he wasn’t having thoughts about harming himself or others.