UCC activists mourn victims, speak out against Washington Navy Yard shooting
Written by Staff Reports
September 16, 2013

The scene outside of the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., after the shooting.

Update - Sept. 17: The gunman now thought to be the sole person responsible for the deadly shooting the Washington Navy Yard has been identified as Aaron Alexis, 34.  He was killed during an exchange of gunfire with police at the scene. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced Monday night that authorities believe he acted alone. Originally of Fort Worth, Texas, Alexis recently began working at the Navy Yard as a civilian contractor.  Thirteen people died in this tragedy. No motive is known at this time.

After yet another mass shooting, United Church of Christ advocates wonder what it will take for Congress to act on gun control legislation. At least 12 people are dead after a violent shooting spree that took place Monday, Sept. 16 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. One of the suspected gunmen is among those who have been killed and two other possible suspects are still at large.

"Today's tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard sadly adds to the growing litany of gun violence incidents that continue to take their terrible toll in this nation," said Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC's Washington D.C. offices. "How long, and how much more loss, will it take?"

The shooting broke out around 8:30 a.m. at the Naval Sea Systems Command, one of five such command centers where civilians, military personnel and contractors build, buy and maintain Navy ships and submarines. It is located about three miles from the White House.

Witnesses say a gunman opened fire on people in the building cafeteria and in a hallway as they moved into the center to start the workday.  The people killed have yet to be identified.

Three of the injured victims were taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center. A male D.C. police officer, according to a hospital spokesperson, had multiple gunshot wounds to his legs and was in surgery. The others were two women, one who was shot in the shoulder, and the other in the head and hand. All are expected to survive.

Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said officers are looking for two potential suspects who are wearing military-style clothing. One has been described as a white male in his 40s, wearing tan military clothing and a beret. The other suspect is a black man in his 40s with gray sideburns, wearing an olive-drab military-style uniform. No motive is known. Investigators say they have no reason to believe it was an act of terrorism, but cannot rule it out.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it briefly suspended departures at Reagan National Airport. The District of Columbia Public Schools have put six schools and an administration building on lockdown as a precaution.

President Obama called the victims of the Navy Yard shooting "patriots" and vowed that federal authorities would work closely with local police "to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible."

As the FBI and local police search for those responsible, Sorenson calls for government action against gun violence. "It is all the more unconscionable that nine months after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, modest legislation to strengthen background checks on gun purchases, advocated by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations including the UCC, remains mired in congressional stalemate and political gamesmanship," Sorensen said. "Seeing the heavily-armed law enforcement officers with assault weapons and emergency vehicles patrolling the area around Capitol Hill, not far from the site of the shooting, I am left to wonder if this is our only answer for greater security and a less violent society."

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