All-Star Panel: Reaction to details about Navy Yard shooter's mental health

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 17, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER: It has been a busy day -- busy two days covering the story of the shooting at the Washington Navy yard. Take a listen.


VALERIA PARLAVE, FBI: We believe at this time that the deceased shooter, Aaron Alexis, acted alone. And we believe that Mr. Alexis entered building 197 at the Navy Yard with a shotgun. We do not have any information at this time that he had an AR-15 in his possession.

The motivation -- whatever that motivation is, is currently under investigation and we're not going to comment on it at this time.


BAIER: Valeria Parlave with the FBI. We're bringing in our panel a little early tonight, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, we get some more information about the shooter and about the shooting.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I think right now it's an open and shut case as to what was behind this. The report that we -- that you talked about, this incident on August the 7th – where he's at a motel in Rhode Island, he was hearing voices, auditory hallucinations. He had a sense that there were three strange people, who were obviously imaginary, trying to shoot waves through his body preventing him from sleeping. He changed motel rooms three times.

This was a man who was clearly having a psychotic episode, probably a paranoid schizophrenic, clearly was somebody who needed psychiatric help. And what's so interesting about this is the police -- he called the cops. He needed help. Thirty years ago the cops would have brought him to a psychiatric emergency room. He probably would have gotten antipsychotics and he probably would have been hospitalized for a couple of weeks. That's the way it was done in the '70s when I practiced psychiatry.

But today that doesn't happen. The cops left. He was left on his own. He was a man who shouldn't have been on his own. He should have the state looking after him, and he ended up killing people. In a way that's -- look, you want to respect the civil liberties of everybody, but there is a point in which if you don't take control of people who are clearly out of touch with reality, you are damaging them, exposing them, and of course tragically, exposing a lot of innocents around them.

BAIER: Senator Dianne Feinstein, obviously a gun control advocate, a Democrat from California, said this after the shooting, "This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons -- including a military-style assault rifle – and kill many people in a short amount of time. When will enough be enough? Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life."

A.B., there was a lot of talk about AR-15 being used. That was not used. It was a shotgun that he apparently purchased in a Virginia gun store Saturday the 14th. The other guns used were -- he picked up on the scene. What about this, the statement and the push for relooking at this on Capitol Hill -- gun control legislation?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, the system didn't work because he passed a background check because you are not - - you're not deemed mentally unfit to purchase a gun unless a judge has said so. And he cleared this background check at Sharp Shooters -- or whatever the store is, in Lorton, Virginia -- and got the gun. He was able once he was inside, once he killed or maimed people, to get other guns.

But he also sought medical help from the VA, and we also have a system at these military installations where according to a report out today, contractors can actually have temporary access even before their background checks are complete.

So the system, whatever it is, we ended up with 12, you know, victims, at the hands of Mr. Alexis. And as for gun control legislation on Capitol Hill, I think that those on the side of proponents of new controls understand that they are not in a position to win that battle.

In the short term, it will be a marathon. In a 90-10 issue like expanded background check -- 90 percent of the country supporting them -- it is possible to win those, but not until they model their efforts, and resources, and mobilization after the gun rights side of the argument. And until then, it's incumbent upon them to work on mental health issues and early intervention that Charles mentioned in order to keep people who get guns legally from busting into -- even just a parking lot -- where they don't need a badge.

BAIER: Steve, in this political environment, you heard Brit Hume on this panel yesterday saying if it didn't happen after Newtown it's hard to believe it will happen now, especially in the wake of what happened in Colorado with these two state lawmakers getting ousted for gun control efforts.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, I think he's absolutely right. There's virtually no chance this will happen.

And I also think the fact that President Obama came out and spoke while this was still unfolding suggested to people that he was unlikely to take it as seriously as he had after the Gabby Giffords shooting, after the Newtown shooting, because if he had been treating it that seriously he presumably wouldn't have been out speaking about Syria and the economy and other issues in addition to that yesterday. There's a very interesting political wrinkle on this question, on the question of gun control as well. Democrats don't want to push forward with any legislation or any kinds of solutions on the mental health side of this question because they don't want to decouple it from gun control legislation. They believe that they will not be as successful in pushing gun control legislation if it's not attached to mental health legislations. One of these areas where Republicans behind the scenes are thinking about whether they should make a concerted effort to push some mental health legislation to address some of the things that Charles raised and let Democrats block it if they want to.

BAIER: All right, coming up after the break, more on this gun control push. Plus, the president on a host of issues and how he's standing this week.