Beam: Fix broken security systems

By By Jim Beam / American Press

Some 70,000 New Orleans Saints fans can only get into the Superdome with a clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag. They aren’t allowed

to bring large purses, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions and computer or camera bags.

However, Aaron Alexis got into the Washington Navy Yard with a questionable ID pass and a shotgun that he used to kill 12

innocent workers inside.

If that doesn’t say something is

terribly wrong with our gun laws already on the books and our government

security systems

in this country, what is it going to take? If the NFL can deal

with security issues effectively, why can’t the federal government?

Gun control opponents are going to have a field day with this incident. It proves what they have been saying all along. They

have continually noted that the country doesn’t enforce existing gun laws and that law enforcement hasn’t figured out how

to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and citizens with mental problems.

National Journal, a Washington, D.C.,

political magazine, had a Wednesday column titled, “Why Gun Control

Can’t Eliminate

Gun Violence.” It talked to Richard Feldman, president of the

Independent Firearm Owners Association, about how to stop mass


“A deranged crazy person, largely in suicidal range, decides to take out as many people as possible — that’s the most difficult

of all,” Feldman said.

Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, listed some of the questions about this incident that need to

be answered.

“What caused this individual to kill so

many innocent men and women,” Machen asked. “How did he carry out and

plan this attack?

How did he get access to the weapons? What could have been done to

prevent this tragedy? And most importantly, whether anyone

else aided or assisted him either wittingly or unwittingly in this


Machen said his office wasn’t going to stop until it gets answers to those questions. We wish him luck, but how many times

have we heard that before?

Alexis was clearly a troubled

individual. He had used a gun recklessly on previous occasions, had a

history of violence and

was undergoing treatment for mental problems. Still, he was able

to get a security clearance, buy a gun, practice at a range

in Virginia and get inside the Navy yard.

The Associated Press reported that

Alexis told police at Newport, R.I., he could hear voices through his

hotel wall harassing

him, wanting to harm him with microwave vibrations and keeping him

awake. The police even reported the incident to the Newport

Naval Station. Alexis then went to Washington to continue his work

as an information technology employee for a defense-related

computer company.

How did this guy get that security clearance in the first place? And how was he able to keep it so long? The AP said, like

other recently accused mass shooters, Alexis was never declared mentally ill by a judge or committed to a hospital.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of

the Joint Chiefs, said those who have served in the military should not

be stigmatized

by having to answer questions about their mental health status on

security clearance forms. He expressed doubts that questions

about mental health on an application form would have revealed the

problems Alexis was experiencing.

Maybe not, but the AP said this is at

least the seventh mass shooting during Obama’s presidency. Gun control

advocates want

more laws, but it’s obvious the country hasn’t made any progress

on how to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people

like Alexis. National Journal said background checks have to

actually detect problems or they won’t work.

It’s rather late in the game, but Navy

Secretary Ray Mabus ordered two security reviews to see how well the

Navy protects

its bases and screens its workers. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

wants a review of security and access at all of his department’s

installations around the world. One audit showed there are poor

review systems for lower level contractors.

Speaking of Hagel, news reports said he

laid a wreath at the U.S. Navy Memorial on Washington’s Pennsylvania

Avenue to mourn

the loss of the Navy Yard victims. Hagel didn’t lay that wreath.

Someone else carried it for him, and he simply touched it

with one hand. Have you ever wondered why Hagel, the president and

others don’t just pick up the wreath on these solemn occasions,

carry it and lay it themselves? Wouldn’t that make these events

more sincere and meaningful?

We can’t leave this latest mass

shooting without bringing up the Benghazi incident. A State Department

security failure definitely

occurred Sept. 11, 2012, when four Americans, including the U.S.

ambassador, were killed at the U.S. mission in Libya. And

persons responsible for the lack of adequate security there are —

so far — off the hook.

Athletic facilities aren’t the only

places where security is tight. Airports, courthouses and many other

federal and state

facilities have metal detectors and guards who effectively screen

the public. You would think all military installations would

top the list of the most secure places in the world, but we know

because of this and previous incidents that isn’t the case.

Whether any effective deterrent will

come from all of this remains to be seen, but it is an issue that is

long overdue for

speedy corrective action at every level of government. Let’s fix

legislation we have that isn’t working before we start adding

more laws that are even tougher to enforce.

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Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or