US mass shooting reignites gun control debate

AP , Tuesday 17 Sep 2013

Seventh mass shooting during Obama's presidency leaves 13 killed including gunman, revives national gun control debate

A deadly shooting in the heart of Washington DC has reignited the US national debate about gun control, but it's uncertain whether Monday's tragedy will revive action in Congress that failed against opposition from gun rights supporters.

Monday's shooting was at least the seventh mass shooting of Obama's presidency. Even after a national outcry when a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six adults in a Connecticut school in December, President Barack Obama was unable to find support from lawmakers for substantial changes to national gun control laws.

People on both sides of the debate offered sympathy for the victims on Monday's shooting, which killed 12. 

The gunman, who was shot dead by police in a military complex in Washington DC, has been described as a young man with an interest in Buddhism and flashes of rage. Officials on Tuesday said he had serious mental issues as well.

Aaron Alexis' motive remains a mystery, but US law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that he had paranoia and a sleep disorder and was hearing voices in his head.

Family members told investigators that Alexis, 34, was being treated for these condititons. He had been treated since August by the federal Veterans Administration, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation is still in progress.

"When will enough be enough?" Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a leading advocate for tougher gun control in the Senate, said in a written statement. "Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life."

Obama wearily mourned the victims while speaking at the White House.

"We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital," Obama said. "It's a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job protecting all of us."

Asked later about whether the shooting would reignite the president's call for more gun control, White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated Obama's commitment to strengthening gun laws, including expanding background checks to sales online and at gun shows.

"The president supports, as do an overwhelming majority of Americans, common-sense measures to reduce gun violence," Carney said.

Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief operating officer of Washington Hospital Center, which treated several of the Navy Yard victims, said: "We need to do whatever we can — to have people argue, to have people disagree — this is something we've got to work on together. ... We've got to stop it."

The nation's top gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, declined to respond to requests for comment Monday. The group successfully fought Obama's push for stricter firearms laws.

Obama and gun control advocates have vowed to continue fighting for the cause but they can't point to a single new Senate supporter. Their case wasn't helped last week, when Colorado residents voted to remove two senators who supported expanded background checks and limits on ammunition magazines.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement, "While it is too early to know what policies might have prevented this latest tragedy, we do know that policies that present a real opportunity to save lives sit stalled in Congress, policies that could prevent many of the dozens of deaths that result every day from gun violence."

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