The Navy Yard Shootings And The Debate Over Gun Control | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

The Navy Yard Shootings And The Debate Over Gun Control

Play associated audio
http://www.flickr.com/photos/barjack/149011258/

Following Monday's shooting at D.C.'s Navy Yard, there are fresh calls for a national discussion about gun control. The discussion was revived after the Newtown shootings last December, in which 20 children and six adults were killed. But in the spring, that discussion was tabled.

George Washington University law, history and sociology professor Robert Cottrol has been following the gun control debate for four decades now, and he says the issue continues to be a thorny one.

"If we look at the shooting in the Navy Yard, none of the standard gun control arguments fit," he says.

For instance, Aaron Alexis had background checks when he bought his gun from a Virginia dealer. He also had a secret clearance from the Navy. And he used a shotgun, not an assault rifle.

"In terms of the gun control issue, focus on this or that gun as a bad gun is misdirected," Cottrol says. "What we need to do is focus on who should be eligible to buy firearms and who should not be, and how do you integrate mental health."

Cottrol says mental health is a difficult issue "because we want to encourage people to go to mental health professionals, but we don't want the fact that they've visited to be a reason for losing the right to purchase a firearm for legit purposes."

The question, Cottrol says, is how do you fine-tune the system so that individuals who are clearly disturbed are prevented from buying firearms, but not everybody who has a psychological issue and visits a psychiatrist or psychologist finds themselves on a banned list?

"But," says Cottrol, "certainly looking at the clues in Mr. Alexis's background, the incident in Rhode Island where he claimed that he was hearing voices, the incidents of discharging a firearm at people or at his neighbor's ceiling — all that should have raised red flags, and somehow that wasn't integrated into any kind of system. And that's been the common thread in all of these mass shootings, people with histories of mental disturbance."

Cottrol says it'd be nice to have a fresh start in the gun-control debate, but "the question I would ask is, what do you want done? In a country where there are 300 million guns in civilian hands, are you seeking a ban? If so, how do you plan to enforce it — going door-to-door in every home searching out guns? If you fear a police state, that will be a police state.

Cottrol says the solution doesn't lie in a gun ban, but rather "in refining our steps in terms of who is able to purchase guns. What I'd like to see is mental health, gun owners, law enforcement sit down and have a conversation about what kind of mental disabilities should prevent someone from being able to purchase a firearm. Look at it and develop some realistic criteria."


[Music: "Mementomori" by Bexar Bexar from Haralambos]

NPR

New Technology Immerses Audiences At Sundance Film Festival

From flying like a bird to walking through a refugee camp in Syria, virtual reality has enabled journalists, filmmakers and artists to immerse their audience in their stories like never before.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: Girl Scout Cookie Coffeemate

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try Girl Scout Cookies in a new form. Coffeemate has somehow blended them into nondairy creamer, so you can start your day the disturbing way.
WAMU 88.5

Court Approves McDonnell's Request To Remain Free During Appeal

A federal appeals court is approving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's request to remain free while he appeals his corruption convictions.
NPR

Just Plane Sad: A Show Of Support For SkyMall

News last week that SkyMall's parent company has filed for bankruptcy protection inspired an outpouring of odes to the kitschy in-flight catalog.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.