September 19, 2013

Manchin wants ‘complete evaluation’ of Navy Yard tragedy | Beckley Register Herald

BECKLEY — How did a lone gunman manage to tote a shotgun inside the Washington Navy Yard and open fire, leaving a carnage that shocked a nation anew, prompting Sen. Joe Manchin and others to demand a full accounting.

Manchin not only wants answers behind the security collapse at the besieged Navy Yard in the nation’s capital, but is demanding to know just how safe are all military installations.

In fact, the West Virginia senator said Wednesday the Senate Armed Forces Committee, on which he serves, has already set wheels in motion for such an inquiry — one that he fully endorses.

“We want a complete evaluation,” he told The Register-Herald.

“I think it would be done anyway, but we’re going to make sure. I think what we’re going to find is a very disturbing report on the lack of security we have at our military bases. I think they think they’re just so macho that who would ever think about doing something like that.”

Manchin was troubled by the fact that Aaron Alexis, a defense contractor known to have mental problems, carried a shotgun inside the complex, then got his hands on a couple of pistols.

“Don’t we have metal detectors?” he asked. “You can break a shotgun down and make it into small pieces, but there is still metal and the detectors would pick that up.”

Manchin suggested a customer would have more difficulty trying to lug a shotgun inside a Walmart than Alexis presumably encountered before the Monday massacre that left him and a dozen employees dead.

“You couldn’t get by the happy greeter,” he surmised.

“I’m in support of an investigation of security on all our military bases. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve reached way too far and relied way too much on private contractors versus those in the military that have had proper screening to be doing those jobs.”

Manchin didn’t mention it, but four years ago, a soldier opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, murdering 13 fellow military personnel.

The senator said he doesn’t think the most recent mass killing has changed attitudes on his once-failed bill to upgrade background checks when purchasing firearms. That measure was inspired by last December’s mass shooting at a schoolhouse in Connecticut.

“I really can’t say it will change anything here in Washington as far as from the senators voting,” he said.

Co-authored with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the bill failed on a 54-46 vote, or five shy of the tally needed for passage, delivering a blow to President Obama’s gun regulation agenda.

“I don’t think things have changed,” Manchin said, despite the latest wave of firearms violence.

“I think we’re still about where we have been. I’ve had a few senators talk to me. They have to find their own comfort levels.”

Those who view the Manchin­Toomey proposal as gun control simply haven’t read it, he said, adding he hopes the “responsible media” in and out of West Virginia will convey his message that it’s all about keeping weapons out of the hands of known criminals and the mentally defective.

“It only said if you go to a commercial transaction, such as a gun show or online, there would be a required background check to see if you have a criminal past or if you have a mental past,” he said.

Alexis suffered paranoia, often hearing voices, and fearing that he was under constant surveillance, police have said. But since he had never been adjudicated with a mental disorder, the Manchin-Toomey measure wouldn’t have applied, Manchin acknowledged. 
“You couldn’t just assume,” the West Virginia Democrat said.

“I might know the village idiot, but if that person had been adjudicated and found out to be incompetent, dangerous, and not in control of his own faculties, that would show up and it would not be easy to buy a gun.”

Manchin said he learned in his travels across the state that between 80 and 90 percent of people at town hall-style meetings support his proposal, but said a small minority of opponents have kept the issue “fired up” with distortions.

Manchin reiterated that he does not support gun control.

“I still support a responsible, common-sense approach to try to keep guns out of the wrong people’s hands. If more had been done, maybe this gun (Alexis’) wouldn’t got by them.”

Moreover, Manchin emphasized his bill went beyond the matter of background checks in gun buys.

“Somehow, we’re going to have to look at this whole mass violence culture that we have,” he said.

“The bill that Pat Toomey and I worked on has as a big part of it, saying we need to look at mass violence, we’d better look at video violence, mental illnesses, school safety. All of this stuff that leads to what we’re seeing right now.”

By:  Mannix Porterfield