How Common Are Shootings At Government Buildings? They're Pretty Rare, But They Do Happen

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The latest shooting at a government facility occurred Thursday at the U.S. Census Bureau when a gunman shot and killed a security guard and then was later shot by police in Washington, D.C. While relatively unusual, there have been times in the recent past where the most secure buildings in Washington, D.C., and other parts of the country have been breached, often by someone focused on committing a violent act, but sometimes due to a set of tragic circumstances. Thursday's incident at the Census headquarters in Suitland, Maryland, was eerily similar to a 2013 incident outside the Capitol.

NBC reported that the situation at the Census building began when the alleged gunman rammed the gates outside the building, before he allegedly shot a security guard, who later died in the hospital. In 2013, Miriam Carey was shot and killed by D.C. police after she drove the wrong way through a White House checkpoint, and rammed her car into a barrier near the Capitol, according to The Washington Post. Her infant daughter, who was in the car with her, was unharmed. And that incident came less than two weeks after subcontractor Aaron Alexis went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 people there before being shot and killed by police, CNN reported.

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One of the more infamous shootings at a government facility in Washington, D.C., happened back in 1998, when a mentally ill man entered the Capitol building. Russell Eugene Weston shot and killed Capitol Hill police officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, The Washington Post reported. Weston shot Chestnut, who was months away from retirement, and a tourist visiting the building, then entered the office of Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, where he shot Gibson, according to The Post. That incident was particularly unusual in that Weston survived the attack.

Such attacks on government buildings unfortunately are not confined to the nation's capital. In 2010, Johnny Lee Wicks, upset over a legal issue, entered the Las Vegas federal courthouse and killed a security officer with a shotgun, according to The Las Vegas Sun. And in 2009, Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who was about to be deployed overseas, used two handguns to kill 13 people at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas, according to The New York Times.

Whatever the outcome of the apparent shooting at the Census building, if the response is similar to the previous incidents, there will be a review of what went wrong, and how to prevent other attacks from occurring in the future.

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