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THE BUZZ

Mental illness killing factor escaping us

Saturday, September 21, 2013 - 12:01 am

A former Navy reservist was reportedly grappling with paranoia and had talked of hearing voices and being followed before he gunned down 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard this week.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says 34-year-old Aaron Alexis visited two hospitals in the weeks before the Monday morning rampage. Two weeks before his ER visit he complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep.

Navy officials said the Newport police reported the incident to officers at the base security office, but nothing more was done about it because he did not appear to be a threat to himself or anyone else at the time.

Despite the apparent concerns over his mental health and past run-ins with the law, Alexis maintained his security clearance as he arrived in Washington in late August for a job as an information technology employee at a defense-related computer company.

Alexis had been a full-time Navy reservist from 2007 to early 2011, and a Navy spokesman said his security clearance, at the “secret level,” was good for 10 years from when he got it.

On Monday morning, he used a valid badge to gain access to the sprawling Navy Yard and Building 197, bringing with him a sawed-off shotgun.

What were the key factors in this, yet another mass killing?

Was it that Alexis had access to guns?

Was it that security system procedures failed to deny access to a potentially dangerous person?

Or was it the failure of our society to recognize and monitor individuals with mental illness who pose a danger to themselves and others?

Attorneys for James Holmes, who also killed 12 others in an Aurora, Colo., theater last year, say he is mentally ill. A judge ruled on Aug. 30 a notebook written by Holmes, in which he allegedly described a violent attack, was covered by physician-patient privilege, as he had discussed it with his psychiatrist. This made it inadmissible as evidence unless Holmes’ mental health became an issue in the case.

Yes, guns can kill people. Yes, people can get into places they don’t belong to hurt others. Yes, some people do these things out of hate and radical beliefs.

But, no, we’re somehow not doing the job of making sure we adequately recognize, treat and monitor mentally ill persons who could commit these massacres because they can’t help themselves.