NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Latest tragedy in Seattle a sad reminder: Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people

Anoth­er late spring day has come and gone, and with it, the lives of more inno­cent Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have been blot­ted out, cru­el­ly cut short by gun­fire:

A man who killed four peo­ple in a bloody shoot­ing spree at two Seat­tle loca­tions end­ed an intense man­hunt by turn­ing the gun on him­self as offi­cers closed in on him Wednes­day.

The Seat­tle Police Depart­ment iden­ti­fied the man as Ian Staw­ic­ki.

Har­borview Med­ical Cen­ter said he died Wednes­day night, as did anoth­er vic­tim, bring­ing the total death toll to six. The lone sur­viv­ing vic­tim was list­ed in crit­i­cal but sta­ble con­di­tion.

The day’s first shoot­ing occurred around 11 a.m. at Café Rac­er in North Seat­tle, where police arrived to find five peo­ple down inside the busi­ness.  Three died from their wounds.

Less than an hour lat­er, a man pulled out a hand­gun and fatal­ly shot a woman in the head dur­ing a car­jack­ing at Eighth and Seneca.

Though Seat­tle police were ini­tial­ly not sure that the two acts of vio­lence were con­nect­ed, they were lat­er able to deter­mine that all of the shoot­ings were per­pe­trat­ed by the same indi­vid­ual, Ian Staw­ic­ki, who, as report­ed above, turned his own gun on him­self after he was cor­nered by SPD in West Seat­tle.

The names of the oth­er peo­ple Staw­ic­ki killed have not yet been released. They are sad­ly just the lat­est vic­tims in a spate of gun vio­lence that has shak­en Seat­tle and caused con­cern in near­by com­mu­ni­ties. To recap:

  • In the ear­ly morn­ing hours of May 27th, sev­er­al homes were dam­aged in a series of dri­ve by shoot­ings. Four homes and vehi­cles parked in front were tar­get­ed by unknown assailants: one on South Fron­tenac Street, one on South Hold­en Street, one on Columbian Dri­ve South, one on South Hen­der­son Street . No one was injured, but there were some close calls, as the homes were occu­pied at the time of the dri­ve-by attacks.
  • Mean­while, the same night, anoth­er Seat­tle home­own­er was shot after he con­front­ed a sus­pect who had bro­ken into his home. He was trans­port­ed to a hos­pi­tal with life threat­en­ing injuries.
  • On May 26th, as the Folk­life fes­ti­val was going on, Ryan Burr was shot in the leg while wait­ing to cross Broad Street near the Space Nee­dle when a mem­ber of a street gang pulled a gun on anoth­er man who he thought had insult­ed him. Burr was tak­en to Har­borview Med­ical Cen­ter and lat­er released. The shoot­er was appre­hend­ed by Seat­tle police inside the Cen­ter House and booked into the King Coun­ty Jail on inves­ti­ga­tion of assault.
  • On May 24th, forty-three year old father of two Justin Fer­rari was killed by gun­fire that tore through his vehi­cle as it was mov­ing through the inter­sec­tion of Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Way and East Cher­ry Street in the Cen­tral Dis­trict. He died at the scene in his father’s arms. Police are still look­ing for the killer; no arrests have been made yet.
  • On April 22nd, twen­ty-one year old culi­nary stu­dent Nicole West­brook was shot and killed in Pio­neer Square while walk­ing home with her boyfriend. She had just moved to Seat­tle, accord­ing to news reports.

And then, of course, we have today’s deplorable shoot­ings, all appar­ent­ly per­pe­trat­ed by Ian Staw­ic­ki, which result­ed in the deaths of half a dozen peo­ple — inlud­ing Staw­ic­ki. Staw­ick­i’s broth­er Andrew (who shares the same last name), told The Seat­tle Times his broth­er was men­tal­ly ill and stub­born.

“It’s no sur­prise to me this hap­pened,” he told the news­pa­per. “We could see this com­ing. Noth­ing good is going to come with that much anger inside of you.”

Sad­ly, it is all too easy for a per­son with a men­tal ill­ness to get his or hands on a gun in the Unit­ed States, due to loop­hole-filled laws and lax reg­u­la­tions which the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA) is con­stant­ly work­ing to weak­en.

A coali­tion of sev­er­al hun­dred may­ors from around the coun­try known as May­ors Against Ille­gal Guns (cofound­ed by Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Meni­no) has been work­ing to close such loop­holes but has had to con­tend with the oppo­si­tion of the gun lob­by at every turn. The coali­tion points out that since 1968, when Mar­tin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assas­si­nat­ed, more than four hun­dred thou­sand Amer­i­cans have been killed with guns. More than four hun­dred thou­sand. To put that num­ber in per­spec­tive, that’s equiv­a­lent to two-thirds of the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of Seat­tle. And more peo­ple are killed with guns —  espe­cial­ly ille­gal­ly obtained guns — every sin­gle day.

When is enough enough? When are we going to take action — as a region, as a coun­try, as a soci­ety — to keep firearms out of the hands of peo­ple who can­not be trust­ed to store and use them safe­ly and respon­si­bly?

Diehard defend­ers of the Sec­ond Amend­ment would have us believe we’d all be safer if we were armed to the teeth, so we could bet­ter defend our homes and our prop­er­ty. They are utter­ly wrong. The more guns we col­lec­tive­ly buy, the more guns we will col­lec­tive­ly use. Data has borne this out.

The recent out­break of gun vio­lence will become even more trag­ic if it results in more gun sales. As Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al writer Lance Dick­ie says:

Seat­tle is suf­fer­ing a fright­en­ing con­ta­gion of mind­less armed vio­lence. Idiots with guns claim­ing lives and wound­ing oth­ers with stray rounds. Vio­lence amped up to a delu­sion­al defense of hon­or and pride with mur­der­ous con­se­quences for inno­cent peo­ple.

This urban tragedy is all the more dis­turb­ing because of the poten­tial for the dement­ed response it will inspire. Oth­er idiots with guns will feel empow­ered to arm them­selves and argue their right to pro­tect the pub­lic. Please spare us the cheesy excuse to car­ry a piece into a din­er or gro­cery store. An anx­ious city is not com­fort­ed by the prospect of hero wannabes itch­ing to shoot back at — what­ev­er.

What can be done to pre­vent future tragedies like the one our region expe­ri­enced today from hap­pen­ing again? That’s not a ques­tion that is eas­i­ly answered. There is no panacea. As Dan­ny West­neat laments:

We are a city on edge. A city now in full-fledged cri­sis.

The may­or, the police and the feds need to quit bick­er­ing, sit down like adults — now — and hash out what, if any­thing, they can do. Because the peo­ple, at this point, are lit­er­al­ly being caught in the cross­fire.

At the least there needs to be far more urgency and more police pres­ence in the neigh­bor­hoods, until what the may­or called this “wave of gun vio­lence” is brought under con­trol. Or, more like­ly, ebbs on its own.

The Stranger’s Jonathan Golob, mean­while, argues that days like today are the price we pay for gut­ting pub­lic ser­vices. A strong social safe­ty net can deter crime, pover­ty, poor health, and many oth­er prob­lems.

But instead of strength­en­ing our safe­ty net, we’ve been rip­ping holes in it, year after year. We’ve sim­ply got to stop doing that.

As the title of this post says, guns don’t kill peo­ple. Peo­ple with guns — peo­ple with guns who should­n’t have guns — kill peo­ple.

If Ian Staw­ic­ki had received treat­ment for his men­tal ill­ness, if he’d had more peo­ple look­ing after him, if he had­n’t had access to a firearm… he and his vic­tims would still be alive right now. Today’s tragedy would not have occurred.

Let’s take action to pre­vent the tragedies of tomor­row by work­ing togeth­er to end sense­less gun vio­lence, espe­cial­ly at the state lev­el.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local pol­i­tics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for mon­ey.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time dona­tion

6 Comments

  1. Very well said.

    # by lori batiot :: May 31st, 2012 at 1:08 AM
  2. Andrew, inter­est­ing post. It presents a mixed bag of points with some shock-val­ue that dis­tracts from them.

    I’ve read a num­ber of sto­ries and none of them defin­i­tive­ly say how Ian Staw­ic­ki obtained the hand­gun he used in the recent cafe/street shoot­ing. Clear­ly he was men­tal­ly ill, and his broth­er (and oth­ers) knew about it. You fol­low that up with a state­ment about NRA-sup­port­ed loop­holes and how easy it is to pur­chase guns in Amer­i­ca. Do you know defin­i­tive­ly that Staw­ic­ki bought his gun through one of those loop­holes? Your gen­er­al­iza­tions detract from your point, that men­tal­ly ill and those who should not own guns must be fil­tered out, while law abid­ing cit­i­zens should not be infringed upon. Come to Mary­land, and you’ll see that pur­chas­ing a gun is a lot hard­er, yet there is still hun­dreds of gang-relat­ed gun homi­cides in Bal­ti­more and sur­round­ing areas. Why??

    Which brings me to the next point; the oth­er shoot­ings you use as exam­ples are all shoot­ings by crim­i­nals; gangs, rob­bers, bur­glars, mug­gers, and oth­ers who have already bro­ken sig­nif­i­cant laws (rob­bery, assault, theft, pos­si­bly rape) and like­wise have no regard for gun laws on the books. This is why the cur­rent gun con­trol per­spec­tive is flawed from the begin­ning. Crim­i­nals have already made the deci­sion to break the law. Addi­tion­al laws about guns being ille­gal isn’t going to stop them from obtain­ing and using guns as they com­mit oth­er crimes.

    I com­plete­ly agree, peo­ple who should­n’t have guns that do, often kill peo­ple. I have many guns, and they’ve nev­er hurt any­one, and nev­er will, but that’s because I am a law-abid­ing, men­tal­ly healthy, non-aggres­sive, respon­si­ble, adamant­ly safe firearms own­er and cit­i­zen. Gun vio­lence dis­turbs me as much if not more so than those who do not own firearms, because it makes me feel as though I need to defend my firearms own­er­ship, when I have done noth­ing wrong.

    While I am a vehe­ment defend­er of 2A, I do not believe we should all be armed to the teeth, all the time. I do believe we need to address the root caus­es of the vio­lence, regard­less of the tool (gun, knife, brick, car, gaso­line, fists, you name it). Men­tal­ly ill need to be rec­og­nized and giv­en the help they need. Those in pain or suf­fer­ing need the sup­port required to keep them from doing rash acts of vio­lence. Kids must be giv­en the prop­er mix of edu­ca­tion, love, and real­i­ty that makes them com­pas­sion­ate but resilient to the incon­sid­er­ate harsh­ness of oth­ers.

    So I think we both agree, it is a peo­ple prob­lem. How do we make bet­ter peo­ple?

    # by booker bienstock :: May 31st, 2012 at 7:53 AM
  3. Those who, in any way, shape, or form, pro­mote vio­lence need to shut up. The author­i­ties list­ed above MUST stop their child­ish bick­er­ing and put an end to this.

    # by Gretchen Anna Sand :: May 31st, 2012 at 2:09 PM
  4. I agree with state­ments like “peo­ple who should­n’t have guns kill peo­ple”, and I also agree that some­thing needs to be done, but as a legal­ly licensed con­cealed car­ri­er, who very strong­ly believes in the right and need to be pre­pared to defend myself and my fam­i­ly, I take offence at the state­ments like “some oth­er idiots with guns will try to be heroes”…being a vig­i­lante is idi­ot­ic yes, but being an armed and pre­pared mem­ber of soci­ety is a respon­si­bil­i­ty! I prac­tice reg­u­lar­ly with my firearms, and I also train my chil­dren to use them as well. Those of you who think you will con­front some­one want­i­ng to hurt you or your fam­i­ly, with words are sad­ly mis­tak­en, and you will sim­ply become a sta­tis­tic in the end!

    # by Ken P :: June 1st, 2012 at 12:04 AM
  5. Lat­est tragedy in Seat­tle a sad reminder: Guns don’t kill peo­ple, peo­ple with guns kill peo­ple

    That is inter­est­ing because 1) I have a gun, and 2) I’ve nev­er killed any­one.

    Guns or not, those peo­ple with vio­lent ten­den­cies are going to end up killing oth­er peo­ple. They may use knives, bats or even their bare hands. But to blame the vio­lence strict­ly on guns is intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­hon­est.

    The prob­lems do NOT stem from gun own­er­ship. The issues stem from the vio­lent ten­den­cies of the indi­vid­u­als.

    Editor’s Note: This commenter’s screen name was cho­sen by NPI, and the com­ment was edit­ed to com­ply with NPI’s Com­ment­ing Guide­lines.

    # by Featherback :: June 1st, 2012 at 3:35 PM
  6. In the 1990’s Boston decid­ed to crack down on gun relat­ed crimes. Instead of pass­ing more gun con­trol laws Boston decid­ed to use their exist­ing laws and impose the max­i­mum sen­tence on any­one found guli­ty of break­ing those laws. Two years after imple­ment­ing this pro­gram Boston expe­ri­anced a 71-per­cent decrease in homi­cides by per­sons ages 24 and under and a 70-per­cent reduc­tion in gun assaults (for all ages).

    # by RickF :: June 2nd, 2012 at 11:55 AM

One Ping

  1. […] course these inci­dents are fuel for the lib­er­als in this area to cite more gun con­trol.  From the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute Advo­cate, “Lat­est tragedy in Seat­tle a sad reminder: Guns don’t kill peo­ple, peo­ple with guns kill […]