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Tragedy strikes again: One dead, several hurt in mass shooting at Seattle Pacific University

America’s deadly gun violence epidemic has once again visited Washington State.

Today, at Seattle Pacific University, one young person was killed and several others were critically and seriously hurt by an unidentified gunman who walked into Otto Miller Hall and began shooting at students early in the afternoon.

The gunman was tackled and subdued by an unarmed student building monitor when he tried to reload one of his weapons to inflict more casualties. Other students rushed to help keep the gunman pinned down as the campus went into lockdown. The gunman was subsequently taken into custody once the Seattle Police Department arrived. Initially, there was confusion as to how many shooters there were, but SPD ultimately clarified there was only one.

His victims were transported by paramedics to Harborview Medical Center on First Hill. One of them later died there; the others are still alive, but seriously injured.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray journeyed to SPU to console the campus community and offer the city government’s support.

“Today should have been a day of celebration at the end of the school year here at Seattle Pacific University,” Murray reflected.

“Instead, it’s a day of tragedy and of loss. Once again, the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle, an epidemic of gun violence that has haunted this nation. Friends, we have been here before: Café Racer, the shootings on Capitol Hill, the shootings at the Jewish Federation. This is a tragic moment for Seattle, a tragic moment for America once again. Our prayers and our thoughts are with the families, and with the entire family of the Seattle Pacific University community.”

Governor Jay Inslee also offered his condolences.

“I mourn with all Washingtonians tonight for the Seattle Pacific University student who died in today’s tragic shooting,” Inslee said.

“There are others still struggling with injuries and we need to keep them, their families and all SPU students in our hearts and prayers. There is much we don’t yet know about today’s shooting. But tonight it is clear that amidst the heartbreak, SPU has shown that it is a community that lives by its mission to serve others. There were students who put themselves in real danger to protect classmates from further violence and to aid and comfort the victims. Those selfless and brave acts should remind us of the indomitable spirit of young people.”

“To see gun violence erupt at a place of higher education shocks all of us. Our schools should be safe havens. And so should our homes, our streets and our workplaces. We need to do more to prevent violence throughout our state.”

The campaign to pass Initiative 594, which would expand background checks on gun sales in Washington, also reacted to the shooting, with a brief statement that simply read: “We are heartbroken that Seattle has once again been touched by gun violence in today’s tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today’s shooting, their families, and the Seattle Pacific University community.”

More than thoughts and prayers will be needed if similar tragedies are to be prevented in the future. That’s why I-594 is so important. It’s an opportunity to minimize the risk of guns falling into the wrong hands.

Businessman and investor Nick Hanauer, who on Tuesday pledged $1 million to help pass I-594 this fall, issued a call to action in the wake of the shooting.

“Convert anger into action. Get involved. Donate. Volunteer. Scream at your your useless elected leaders. Some of us already are. Initiative 594 will make a difference,” Hanauer wrote in a message to friends on Facebook.

He later linked to a recently published satire piece published by The Onion, posted in the wake of the shootings in Isla Vista, California, titled: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only [Developed] Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

The Onion has been spot on in its response to Newtown, Isla Vista, and other mass shootings. But satire isn’t going to prevent the next mass shooting.

Over the last few years, we’ve watched one community after another get ripped apart. Newtown, Aurora, Isla Vista, Oak Creek, Fort Hood, the Navy Yard, Virginia Tech… the list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

We have endured these tragedies, but we have not yet learned from them. And that is why they continue to happen. We do not channel our grief and sadness into action. Collectively, as country, we shrug and move on. We can’t keep doing that. Richard Martinez, the father of Isla Vista shooting victim Christopher Martinez, said it well when he said our rallying cry ought to be not one more.

Letting people acquire deadly weapons with no questions asked is stupid and senseless. No other developed country allows it, and we shouldn’t, either.

Right wing activists who care more about acquiring, displaying, carrying, and shooting guns than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness claim that the Second Amendment forbids any regulation of firearms. It does not. In fact, “regulated” actually appears in the text of the Second Amendment, which begins with these words: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”

The Roberts and Rehnquist courts have been interpreting the Second Amendment the way the National Rifle Association wants it interpreted. But theirs is not the only interpretation, let alone a sensible one. Justice John Paul Stevens:

When each word in the text is given full effect, the Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.

So far as appears, no more than that was contemplated by its drafters or is encompassed within its terms. Even if the meaning of the text were genuinely susceptible to more than one interpretation, the burden would remain on those advocating a departure from the purpose identified in the preamble and from settled law to come forward with persuasive new arguments or evidence.

We cannot allow the NRA’s uninformed and uncompromising interpretation of the Second Amendment to prevent us from improving our laws to save lives. Since Newtown and Aurora, we’ve made progress in a few states, but in far more, the NRA has succeeded in loosening gun safety and gun responsibility laws. They are a powerful lobby, and quite experienced at intimidating our elected representatives. Fortunately (and unfortunately), here in Washington, we have the initiative, which, when used for good, can be the means of bypassing a gridlocked Legislature.

Initiative 594 will be on the ballot this fall. If it passes, it will be the law of the land, barring a legal challenge. Even if that happens, its passage will still represent an important victory for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Washington made history in 2012 by becoming one of the first states to vote in favor of marriage equality at the ballot. This year, we have an opportunity to make history again by standing up to the NRA and taking action – real, meaningful action – to prevent what happened today from happening again.

Let’s make it happen by getting out the vote for I-594.

2 Comments

  1. Gael Tarleton
    Posted June 5th, 2014 at 10:12 PM | Permalink

    A young man held the shooter down. He risked everything. And he saved lives. But this is not normal. The students at Seattle Pacific University should be celebrating the end of the school year and preparing for graduation celebrations. We need to change the ritual of violence. We need to take action to make people safer. I-594 begins the journey. But it does not change our culture. Not one more. We must decide this. Not one more.

  2. Posted June 7th, 2014 at 8:52 AM | Permalink

    “It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun”? Not always.