The FBI today released more information on Aaron Alexis, the gunman in the Washington Navy Yard shooting, along with images of his cut-down Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun and video footage of him in the hallway of a building where he murdered a dozen people more than a week ago.
According to the FBI, Alexis bought the shotgun and ammunition two days before the shooting, as this column previously reported. He also reportedly bought a hacksaw at a hardware store with which he evidently cut off part of the barrel and the stock of the shotgun. He wrapped the cut buttstock with purple tape. Seattle's KOMO carries an update from the Associated Press.
He also scratched messages into the shotgun’s receiver. One said “Better off this way!” Another stated, “End to the torment!” and a third said “Not what yall say!” Clearly, as quoted by WUSA, Ronald C. Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Alexis was “mentally unstable.” However, that did not prevent him from getting a job that secured clearance to enter the Navy Yard.
The revelations might further help gun rights advocates counter arguments from gun prohibitionists that some new law might help prevent such incidents. Alexis passed state and federal background checks when he bought the shotgun from a Virginia sporting goods store. Unless gun dealers are clairvoyant, it is impossible to know what someone who passes a background check might do 48 hours later.
Alexis cut the shotgun down, violating existing federal statutes.
The 34-year-old Alexis took a Beretta 9mm pistol from one of the people he fatally shot, and he was killed by a U.S. Park Police officer. He used a valid badge to gain access to the Navy Yard, where he had worked for only a week, having started there on Sept. 9, according to WUSA, quoting the FBI’s Valerie Parlave, who heads the Washington field office.
The Remington shotgun used by Alexis does not meet the criteria of a so-called “assault weapon.” Indeed, it was one of the firearms exempted from the proposed ban.
The fact that he took a handgun from one of his victims shows that criminals will get their hands on firearms regardless of any legal limitations. There is no indication that Alexis targeted any of his victims. He just opened fire and shot people.