Candles were lit, bells tolled and a moment of silence was offered for Gabby Giffords and Margaret Anderson, and the thousands of others that are victimized by gun violence here and across the nation.
The vigil Sunday morning at Westlake Center, one of the more than 40 "Too Many Victims" vigils which took place in 19 states, came on the one-year anniversary of the Tucson shooting that gravely wounded Rep. Giffords and killed six people. The Seattle event was organized by Washington CeaseFire, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to reducing gun violence in the state.
"Gun violence is the most neglected public issue of our time," CeaseFire's board president Ralph Fascitelli told a sparse crowd of maybe 50 people. "In our state, we have lost more lives to gun violence than all the U.S. combat casualties in Iraq since 2003."
Fascitelli added that there have been 6,000 gun-related deaths in Washington in the past ten years, and yet, "Virtually nothing gets done about it. We can't even pass an assault-weapons ban on weapons that can shoot 200 bullets a minute."
Fascitell's remarks were interrupted for several awkward minutes when a manner-challenged twenty-something-year-old man moved menancingly toward the speaker and said, gratingly, "What about the homeless? What are you doing about the homeless?"
One of the homeless, it turned out, was a black woman from south Tacoma. She said her name was Becky, who'd spent the night before the Westlake memorial in a shelter on 3rd Avenue and had felt moved to attend the event. On this chilly Sunday morning, she wore a button that read: "Remember Margaret Anderson," the 34-year-old ranger and mother of two toddlers who was shot to death in Mount Rainier National Park on New Year's Day.
Rep. Jim McDermott spoke of Tom Wales, the assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle who was killed the evening of Oct. 11, 2011 while sitting at his computer in his Queen Anne home. At the time, Wales lived ten blocks away from McDermott, who also noted that Giffords' office is just five doors down from his in the Longworth Building in Washington, D.C.
"When you have this kind of thing in our society, no one is safe," McDemott said. "It is an absolute travesty that our political system has done nothing to deal with this. We need sensible legislation... I don't want Tom Wales or Margaret Anderson to have died in vain."
According to the FBI, 12,996 Americans were murdered in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Of that number, more than two-thirds, or 8,775, were killed by guns.