On May 30, 2012, Ian Stawicki walked into Cafe Racer in Seattle, Washington and shot five people,killing four: Joe Albanese, 52; Drew Keriakedes, 49; Kimberly Layfield, 38; and Donald Largen, 57. Fleeing the cafe, Stawicki then confronted Gloria Leonidas, a 52-year-old married mother or two, and beat her physically before shooting her in the head, killing her. Later that day, police confronted Stawicki in West Seattle. As they approached him, Stawicki knelt on the ground and shot himself in the head, taking his own life.
Shortly after the shooting it was revealed that Stawicki had obtained a concealed handgun permit in the state of Washington in August 2010 and legally purchased at least six handguns. This was despite a lengthy history of violence that included prior arrests for assault, domestic violence, and unlawfully carrying a weapon. Stawicki's family also revealed that he had a long history of mental illness. Stawicki suffered from delusions. He told his girlfriend he was married and the father of six. He told others he was a member of a CIA death squad. But the family never pushed to have him committed because they never heard him threaten to hurt himself.
The family did attempt to have Stawicki's concealed handgun permit revoked. When they contacted law enforcement, however, "the response to [them] was, there's nothing we can do, he's not a threat to himself or others, or we haven't had a report of it, or we haven't had to pick him up—call us when it's worse." Law enforcement wasn't simply being indifferent. They were powerless to act. The "Shall Issue" permitting law in Washington, written by the National Rifle Association (NRA), prevents the state from denying a concealed handgun permit to anyone who meets a basic set of criteria. And because Ian Stawicki had never been involuntarily committed nor convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, he met those criteria.
That a dangerous mentally ill man was allowed to retain his guns and carry permit despite these warnings is apparently of no concern to pro-gun activists, who came to the defense of the state's gun laws immediately after the tragedy. Dave Workman, the communications director for the Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a former member of the NRA Board of Directors, had the following to say about Ian Stawicki:
I don't know that there's anything you can do in these situations. We can't treat him like a child, he's got his own life to live and he can make his own mistakes no matter how horrific those mistakes turn out to be.
Workman's boss agreed with him about Stawicki's "mistake." Alan Gottlieb, a convicted felon who petitioned the federal government to have his "gun rights" restored, wasn't focused on the innocent lives that Stawicki took in the wake of the shooting. He seemed to have his own questionable history in mind, telling KING 5 News: "If you did that here in Seattle, you'd have a chief who gave out no gun permits. If it becomes discretionary, then people who deserve guns won't get them."
Workman and Gottlieb were certainly not alone. Keith Milligan, an Election Volunteer Coordinator with the NRA-ILA and author of the pro-gun blog "Shall Not Be Questioned, made it clear to us that he was concerned about individuals like Ian Stawicki being deprived of "life, liberty or property" and "due process." The lives and liberty of those innocent Americans Stawicki killed in cold blood? Milligan didn't mention it...
"Melvin Udall," a pro-gun activist from Virginia, concurred with Milligan, complaining, "So the precedent going fwd is GOV must deprive ALL ppl of life,liberty,pursuit IN CASE one might deprive others?" One? Udall seemed unphased by the fact that Stawicki is now at least the 20th concealed handgun permit holder to have committed a mass shooting since May 2007.
Pat Watson" (AKA "Hazmatpat") of Minnesotans for Firearms Safety Tweeted at us, "did he have a criminal record? Any reason to deny him his rights prior to crime? Otherwise you're talking #MinorityReport stuff!" Minority Report? Watson apparently neglected to read about Stawicki's criminal record, or review the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller, which stated that "concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the [Second] Amendment [and] state analogues." Later, Watson told another Twitter user that if Stawicki was "not safe to be walking around, then prosecute!" For what? He didn't say. But apparently that wouldn't violate his "rights" like, say, preventing him from legally carrying a gun in public despite abundant evidence he was mentally ill and violent.
Finally, Ken Soderstrom, a pro-gun activist from Greenville, North Carolina, decided to just blame Stawicki's victims for getting shot. "We know he was a regular [at Cafe Racer] and knew those in the cafe wouldn't be armed," Soderstrom told us. "Defenselessness promotes violence." How simple. It was their fault for not arming themselves against their fellow citizens in a place they went to relax and enjoy the company of others.
After the shooting, Ian Stawicki's brother would say, "It's no surprise to me this happened. We could see this coming." But pro-gun activists have warned us that preventing people who are clearly dangerous from arming themselves and carrying guns in public is unacceptable, no matter what the ultimate body count is.