Twelve employees of the military base died and three others were injured by the spray of bullets from a gun held by 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, according to police. The FBI said determining the origin of the weapons carried by the alleged shooter is part of their investigation and the public is being asked for information about Alexis, who was killed by police.
- Navy yard shooting victims' portraits emerge
- Navy yard gunman Alexis Aaron treated for mental issues
The latest mass shooting has Americans once again talking about access to guns in their country.
A fierce debate about gun laws was ignited after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting last December in Newtown, Conn., when 20 children and six adults were gunned down. Obama reacted by saying the country had to take “meaningful action” to prevent more tragedies, regardless of the politics.
But the latest tragedy has happened right in Obama’s backyard — the Navy Yard lies just a short distance from the White House and Capitol Hill, where the president tried and failed to get Congress to pass stricter laws.
There was no talk on Monday from Obama about trying again.
"We’re confronting yet another mass shooting and today it happened on a military installation, in our nation’s capital,” the president said ahead of a speech on the economy.
Obama did not vow to tighten laws or to take any other specific actions. He did not call on Congress to try again to pass gun law reforms. He vaguely said the government would investigate the incident and try to prevent it from happening again.
“As this investigation moves forward, we will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible,” Obama said. “We’re going to be investigating thoroughly what happened, as we do so many of these shootings, sadly, that have happened and do everything that we can to try and prevent them.”
At the White House daily press briefing, a reporter said the shooting will no doubt reignite the gun control debate and asked press secretary Jay Carney to comment.
Carney responded that without all the facts, that would be hard to do.
“What is true is certainly that the president supports, as do an overwhelming majority of Americans, commonsense measures to reduce gun violence,” he said, adding that Obama has taken executive actions to reduce gun violence. “And, obviously, he continues to support measures taken by Congress — that could be taken by Congress — to reduce gun violence in a commonsense way, like improving our background check system.”
While Obama didn’t make any pleas for change on Monday – others did. Dr. Janis Orlowski is emerging, unintentionally she said, as a new advocate in the battle to prevent gun deaths.
The chief trauma doctor at MedStar Washington Hospital Center where the gunshot victims were treated injected her personal feelings about what happened Monday into a media briefing.
“I have to say I may see this every day, I may be the chief medical officer of a very large trauma centre, but there is something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries, there’s something wrong. And the only thing that I can say is we have to work together to get rid of it,” she said with emotion straining her voice. “I’d like you to put my trauma centre out of business … I would like to not be an expert on gunshots.”
Orlowski told the CBC’s Heather Hiscox in an interview Tuesday morning that she hadn’t planned on making the comments, but she has no regrets.
“I’m sick and tired of this. The American people are sick and tired of this. We’re too good and too strong of a people to not take strong action and to make these mass shootings go away,” she said.
Orlowski said it’s not just up to Obama and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and change has to come from Americans themselves.
“I have to say we have to do something, we can’t point to Washington … we as the American people have to get up and say we’re sick of this and we’re going to do something about this.”
It’s not just a gun control issue, however, the doctor said there needs to be a broader conversation about people with mental health problems and how to care for them.
Orlowski didn’t point the finger at Congress, but Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein did when she spoke out about the Navy Yard shooting.
“When will enough be enough?” she said in a 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.”
Jacqueline Alston, a Washington resident who spoke to the CBC Monday as she awaited word from her husband who works in the building where the shooting happened, agrees.
“This is not working, all this gun legislation,” she said, fighting back tears. “I just want this to stop. I can’t deal with this.”