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SPU shooting: Mayor blames ‘gun violence’ but school a ‘gun-free zone'

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray moved quickly to blame the SPU shooting on an "epidemic of gun violence that haunts this nation."
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray moved quickly to blame the SPU shooting on an "epidemic of gun violence that haunts this nation."
Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

Anti-gun Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wasted no time trying to exploit yesterday’s fatal shooting at Seattle Pacific University, but his remarks are being overshadowed by talk of heroics credited to a student who pepper-sprayed and physically took down the suspected shooter, identified this morning as Aaron Ybarra, who could make his first court appearance today.

Likewise, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which is pushing Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure, quickly issued a statement yesterday that Seattle “has once again been touched by gun violence…” I-594 is the so-called “universal background check” measure amassing a huge campaign war chest in preparation for what could become the state’s most important political showdown.

County Executive Dow Constantine is being quoted by The Stranger contending, “It is time for all good people—responsible gun owners included—to rise up and end this madness.” The Stranger also quoted Gov. Jay Inslee, who issued a statement that included this remark: “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 hero in this incident is identified as Jon Meis, who reportedly works as a building monitor. When the shooter, armed with a shotgun, stopped to reload, Meis moved in, sprayed him and took him down with a choke hold. Other students and staff piled on and held him until Seattle police arrived.

This morning, SPU President Daniel Martin confirmed to KVI’s John Carlson that the small private university, located on the north side of the Queen Anne neighborhood, is a gun-free zone. Firearms are not permitted on the campus, but that did not stop what Mayor Murray quickly blamed on an “epidemic of gun violence.” Seattle Times readers are engaged in a hot debate here.

Seconds after he stepped before microphones at a news briefing yesterday afternoon, 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…Friends, we have been here before: Café Racer, the shootings on Capitol Hill, the shootings at the Jewish Federation.”

Two years ago while still serving in the state Senate, Murray was one of three key sponsors of legislation to ban so-called “assault weapons.” One tenet of that bill, which had been twice introduced previously in the past decade, was a provision to allow sheriff’s deputies to make unscheduled, warrantless searches of the homes of gun owners to assure that their “assault weapons” were properly secured.

Exposure of that section was embarrassing, and it led to the bill’s almost immediate death in committee. When the bill’s sponsors insisted they did not know that provision was in their legislation, nobody believed them, because the legislation was nearly identical to their previous bills.

Seattle Police have not released the brand or type of shotgun used in the incident, or where or how the suspect obtained it. The 26-year-old suspect’s Facebook page, before it was taken down Friday morning, showed no special interest in firearms, though one of his “Likes” was a website called “Guns & Snipers.” Notes left on that page by friends expressed anguish and astonishment that Ybarra is the suspect.

Gun rights activists expect I-594 proponents to exploit the tragedy. 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.