McDonnell: Mental illness, not gun laws, should be focus after Navy Yard

From right to left, WTOP\'s Hank Silverberg, Mark Lewis and Gov. Bob McDonnell in WTOP\'s studios for our monthly call-in show. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)

WASHINGTON — Five of the 12 victims at the Navy Yard shooting last week were from Virginia and one of the guns used to kill them was legally purchased in the state, two days before.

Aaron Alexis, the shooter, had a record of mental health and criminal issues, but maintained a security clearance that allowed him access to the building where the rampage took place.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell did not mince words when he spoke to these facts on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” show Tuesday morning.

“Mental health was at the forefront of this event.”

“Looking back afterwards and saying this was the result of a lawful purchase, I think that undermines some of the serious issues that we really need to be able to address in the area of security,” he said. “In this case, the question is: Should this gentleman have had his security clearance up until the day of this shooting?”

McDonnell sat down in the glass-enclosed nerve center for the monthly call-in show and took questions on the Navy Yard shootings, a looming federal government shutdown, implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act and transportation.

The first topic he addressed was gun control in his state.

“I have yet to see any conclusive data that a waiting period would work,” he said. “I think it’s simplistic to say a waiting period would have prevented this. A week later, jumping to conclusions doesn’t usually offer solutions.

“We will certainly do a full review of laws in Virginia, especially, again, our mental health laws. I think that really needs to be the focus of so many of these shootings.”

He continued, “We have put significantly more funding in our mental health system.”

Virginia is a state that believes in the Second Amendment, McDonnell reminded listeners.

“It’s a discussion we always have about security vs. freedom. It’s worth a continued discussion on how we can do better.”

From there, the conversation shifted to the possibility of another federal government shutdown next week, which affects a large portion of Virginia’s population.

“We should not hold the federal government and federal workers hostage,” he said.

Continuing, McDonnell said he believes the Obama administration has lacked leadership on the matter and that Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to work together to find a solution to the problem.

“As a governor who has balanced four budgets and racked up $2 billion in surpluses, we’re constantly shocked that people can’t get their act together in D.C.,” he said.

To listen to the full broadcast and read our blog of the show, click here.

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