Again, the nation must grapple with a mass shooting. Again, it occurred in what was thought to be a safe place. And, once again, the specter of mental instability could be involved.

From Blacksburg, Va., to Aurora, Colo., to Tucson, Ariz., to Newtown, Conn., to Oikos University to Fort Hood, Texas, to Oak Creek, Wisc., gun violence produced tragic results.

The latest case adds the frightening component of occurring in what was thought to be an extremely secure military location in Washington, D.C., known as the Navy Yard.

The mass slaughter of civilian personnel at such an installation seems incongruous until we consider that Fort Hood was supposed to be a safe military location as well.

Employees from the Navy Yard complex depart a gathering point for reuniting family members that was set up inside Nationals Park in the wake of the Navy
Employees from the Navy Yard complex depart a gathering point for reuniting family members that was set up inside Nationals Park in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting September 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. Police believe at least one gunman shot and killed 12 people and wounded others in an incident that put parts of the city on lockdown. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In the Navy Yard shooting, the death toll stands at 13 people with others wounded. Among the dead was Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old contract worker who police say was the shooter. He was killed in a gunbattle with police.

There is still much to be learned about Alexis and what may have prompted him to open fire on a group of civilians.

But what we know so far is that he had been given a general discharge from the Navy Reserve several years ago, that he was an hourly worker for a civilian contractor with clearance to get into the building, that he has a criminal record and that he may have entered the Navy Yard on Monday using a valid ID that belonged to another person. Police were attempting to determine whether that ID was stolen.


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This grotesque event almost seems like a scene from the hit television series "NCIS," which is headquartered in the Navy Yard. In fact, there have been at least two episodes of the drama that are eerily similar to Monday's events.

But this is definitely not a television drama. It is real life and real death.

When examining the nation's mass shootings as a group, it is difficult not to notice the consistent presence of two things: guns and mental instability.

This shooting has, once again, flared the all-too-familiar gun debate as well as the discussions about homeland security.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein already has challenged her colleagues to make significant law changes to cut gun availability.

The National Rifle Association again has pointed out that there are laws on the books and that no new ones would have prevented this tragedy.

Those issues must be discussed -- again. But any serious discussion must also revolve around improving both the quality and access to the nation's mental health system.

But such issues should be considered later. Right now, the nation must mourn the dead and wounded. We offer condolences and deepest sympathies to their families.