By Ian Finkenbinder
In recent days, a wave of violence has rocked Seattle, adding to an already growing number of murders that has City Hall and the Seattle Police Department scrambling to find a solution to a recent spate of bloody crimes rocking the city. Far exceeding previous years– the death toll as reported by SPD now reaching 20 this month as compared to last year’s 21 for the entire year– citizens are becoming edgy and city officials are left asking “why?”
The answer, for some, is easy. All but two of these deaths were shooting incidents, and many are quick to lay the blame with the weapon used. Most recently, a deadly shooting spree/suicide tore through Seattle leaving five dead, and in a sadly ironic twist, coming just hours after the SPD began to assign guns the blame:
“‘A person who has a gun is more likely to use a gun,’ Metz said after the weekly council briefing.
“The pair addressed the City Council on Tuesday to talk about the recent spate of shootings and the Police Department’s stepped-up response.
“Police are trying to pinpoint a reason or reasons for the recent violence and are combing through cases as far back as October, when they noticed an uptick in seemingly random incidents.
“‘We don’t know’ what has prompted the violence, said Jim Pugel, assistant police chief of investigations. ‘If we knew, we’d be able to put a stop to it, and that’s the frustrating part.’”
A person who has a gun is, of course, far more likely to use a gun. This is a clear no-brainer. This sentiment, however, leads people to reach for solutions that don’t really solve the problem of violence, but merely change how that violence occurs. The fact that people have guns isn’t the problem. The overall mental health and economic state of Seattle’s citizenry is.
Before you jump up and label me a right-wing nutjob, let me explain my background. I consider myself a radical leftist with a history of non-violent resistance. I organize political demonstrations, marches, rallies, and other exercises in peaceful protest. However, I am also a veteran of the war in Iraq. While I no longer believe in the cause I fought for, I have in fact used weapons with deadly effect, something that I wrestle with in my conscience but know that if I need to, I could again.
The point is, I know how to use a gun and feel safe handling one. I have done it, many times, and feel confident that those around me are safe when I touch one. If I owned a gun, I would think it wouldn’t be cause for alarm.
Unless, of course, you tried to attack me with a hatchet.
Now, because I had access to weaponry, do you think I was more likely to go spare and kill five people? Not bloody likely. What made me different from those who use guns to perpetrate horrible crimes like the ones we’ve seen recently?
That’s perhaps not an easy answer to give, but blaming these crimes on inanimate objects that have deadly potential doesn’t do justice to the actual problems that drive people to commit violent crime. Ian L. Stawicki, the perpetrator of our most recent horrors, didn’t kill people because he had a gun. He killed them because he was sick.
What the SPD and City Hall aren’t really talking about is that Ian Stawicki, a schizophrenic who wasn’t accessing treatment, was mentally ill. Like so many in this country, Stawicki was ill and wasn’t being treated and there were deadly consequences that ended the lives of five people and wounded a city.
Stawicki isn’t alone. While he was refusing treatment, so many people simply don’t even have the option of treatment. Mental illness drives many to kill, not guns.
Schizophrenia is not the only illness that can drive someone to commit murder. The majority of violent crime is drug-related, and the disease of addiction is one of the deadlier ones that we face. Instead of treating it, all too often we jail and punish the afflicted with prison time. Instead of treating it like a disease, we drive it underground, where a thriving drug trade can fester, inspiring horrible crimes that happen every day.
Is the problem with drug addicts that they have guns? Does that make them kill? Or is it the fact that they are ill, need help, and are instead being threatened with imprisonment?
Perhaps what disturbs me most about making guns inaccessible of course, is who is left holding the guns that we can’t possess. Yes, if you own a gun, you are far more likely to kill someone. Who do we know that owns guns?
Let me get this straight. You want one of the country’s worst police departments– which is now using these horrific murders to maneuver out of complying with the Department of Justice after being found to consistently use excessive force– to be the only armed ones? Should we really take away our ability to defend ourselves from an increasingly authoritarian police state?
The effort to take our ability to carry weapons away doesn’t help the people. It serves to keep the people from fighting back. It helps to perpetuate the oppression of a state that refuses to treat our sick, leaves our poor high and dry, and then brutalizes the people who dare to speak out against these abuses. Guns aren’t the problem, the class war perpetrated by the powerful is the problem. People will keep dying until steps are taken to rectify the actual problems that plague our societies, and taking away guns won’t end it.