The gunfire was still echoing from Seattle Pacific University’s mass shooting yesterday when, of course, the gun debate, with all its recycled arguments, began anew. The exact toll—it would be one dead, two wounded by a well-armed shooter with an itch to randomly kill strangers—was still unconfirmed when I heard someone on the radio say this likely wouldn’t have happened if the school hadn’t banned guns.
“The best way to stop a man with a gun is with another man with a gun,” was a line frequently heard.
That was followed through the day and night by pro-gunners exploiting the shooting by accusing the mayor of exploiting the shooting because he’s an anti-gunner. As Examiner.com gun columnist Dave Workman wrote, “Seconds after he stepped before microphones at a news briefing yesterday afternoon, [Ed] Murray—a perennial anti-gunner while serving in the State Senate—blurted, ‘Once again, the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle, the epidemic of gun violence that haunts this nation…’”
Similarly, noted Workman, who is a longtime spokesperson for Alan Gottlieb’s Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Bellevue, “the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which is pushing Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure, quickly issued a statement that Seattle ‘has once again been touched by gun violence…’”
Of couse, Workman wrote, he and other “Gun rights activists expect I-594 proponents to exploit the tragedy.” But, as usual, “Very little attention will likely be paid to the fact that the SPU campus is a ‘gun-free zone’ and that such a designation is, at best, delusional.”
It was a line of thought expressed by others on radio, TV, and in newspaper comments over the past 24 hours. And it was an element of the larger gun nut argument that weapons laws don’t work and the solution to the proliferation of mass shootings is for the masses to return fire—that the answer to guns is more guns. Eventually, apparently, our national nightmare will end only when everyone is armed.
It doesn’t much matter what gun law you cite, pro-gunners will tell you it’s worthless. No-gun zones don’t stop people from bringing in weapons any better than gun-control measures prevent criminals from arming themselves, they feel. Other than the thousands that are stopped by these measures, what good are laws that are not perfect?
Oddly, however, gun-rights advocates seemed to think what Jon Meis did yesterday was laudable. The SPU campus monitor saw the teen shooting suspect, Aaron Ybarra, pause to reload his shotgun and rushed him, using pepper spray and a choke hold. Meis took him down and with the help of others held him for police. The suspect reportedly had the ammunition to shoot and possibly kill many others.
Workman refers to Meis’ actions as “heroic,” and clearly they were. But the pro-gunner and others were so caught up in a rush to criticize gun-control advocates and gun zones that they didn’t seem to realize Meis had also disarmed them as well.
Their hero was an unarmed man in a no-gun zone. And he prevailed over the man with a gun.
Meis was able to quickly identify the suspect—in the no-gun zone, he was obviously the guy with the gun—and moved in for a quick takedown.
Not only did he likely prevent others from being shot by the gunman, the unarmed Meis did not have to risk shooting any of them himself in a crossfire.
Ed Murray this afternoon mentioned Meis at a press conference, where the mayor talked about the SPU death of Paul Lee, 19, a freshman from Portland, and two other shooting victims killed earlier this week in a Central District homicide, Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23.
He hopes to do more to prevent such deaths, Murray said, and cited Meis as an example of how people can help combat violence. There aren’t any simple answers, the mayor said, suggesting more action by police and social agencies, and the enforcement and strengthening of gun laws.
But Meis, at least, “stood up and took charge, put his own life at risk,” and prevented a situation that could have been even more tragic, Murray said. And he did it without a gun.
It’s not likely to become anyone’s mantra. But for a day at least, Joe Meis can boast, if he wishes, the best way to stop a man with a gun is with a man without a gun—and still be called a hero by gun nuts.
Rick Anderson writes about sex, crime, money, and politics, which tend to be the same thing.