Statistically, Aaron Alexis was surprisingly typical. In a study of mass shootings, the Congressional Research Service last year found that many of the perpetrators are white and male, averaging 331/2 years of age. By definition, the mass shooters attack random victims, not acting in the pursuit of some terrorist ideology but acting out of anger, the kind evidenced by the former Navy reservist who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
Alexis, 34, had been treated for mental problems but was still working with a defense contractor when he used a valid pass to get into the Navy Yard, the FBI said.
His horrible actions are thus not quite the parallel with the 2009 shooting at Ford Hood. The former Army major who perpetrated that crime will be executed; he appears to have acted as a lone-wolf terrorist.
The circumstances of Alexis’ crime will be pieced together, but the nation surely did lose, as President Barack Obama said, “patriots” serving their country at the Navy Yard — whether civilian contractors or military personnel.
The loss to their families is also a loss to the nation.