As the original narrative about Monday’s mass shooting at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C. involving an AR-15 rifle is dissolving, the new demon in the revised story now appears to be the Remington Model 870 shotgun that the Daily Mail on-line breathlessly gasps “can load six shells at once.”
This change in the story leaves bombastic television commentator Piers Morgan with egg on his face after an on-air rant that Alexis had purchased an AR-15. This came during an appearance with a panel that included researcher and author John Lott.
Now the Seattle Times is reporting that one of the victims was a University of Washington alum identified as Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., the same community in which Aaron Alexis purchased the pump-action 12-gauge Remington Model 870 Express that he apparently used in the attack.
The gun was purchased on Sept. 14 at the Sharp Shooters gun range, according to an e-mail from attorney J. Michael Slocum to this column Tuesday. Alexis bought the shotgun and a small amount of ammunition described as two boxes totaling 24 shells.
The Remington 870 is one of the most successful and popular shotguns in America. Introduced in 1951, it has been a favorite of upland game, waterfowl and even deer hunters for its reliability. It has been used by law enforcement, the military and private security agencies in one variation or another for decades.
Alexis had been arrested in Seattle in the spring of 2004 for discharging a handgun outside his residence in a dispute with some construction workers. The police report and a story in the Seattle Times suggests he was booked, and investigated for malicious mischief, which is a misdemeanor. Had he been prosecuted – which he was not – it might have appeared on his record when he went through a background check for military and/or security clearance.
Likewise, following a 2010 shooting incident in Fort Worth, he was not prosecuted. So his record was clean enough to allow him to pass background checks, not only to work at the Navy Yard, but also to buy a shotgun in Virginia.
The dilemma faced by the mainstream press and the gun prohibition lobby with the Remington Model 870 is that it has a limited magazine capacity. That throws any narrative about “assault shotgun” out the window. According to the Daily Mail story, the shotgun Alexis used holds five shells in the magazine and a sixth in the chamber. That fits several variations of the Express model.
Recall that Vice President Joe Biden recommended shotguns for home defense earlier this year, though his choice of a double-barrel model left self-defense experts pretty much in hysterics. The gaffe was compounded when Biden counseled people to take the gun outside and fire it to frighten off burglars or home invasion robbers who might be inside the house.
Yet with Biden’s remarks out there, gun prohibitionists could easily argue that shotguns holding more shells are unnecessary. They would be laughed out of town for making such an argument, but that doesn’t mean they would not try using it.
More importantly, if authorities are correct and Alexis took firearms from officers he shot – which appears to be the case – another important anti-gun narrative gets slammed. Taking guns from wounded or dead shooting victims does not involve background checks, waiting periods, licensing or any other regulatory hoop through which a killer must jump in order to be armed.