Working to end gun violence

Violence is one refrain in America’s narrative. So is courage.

Thursday afternoon’s shooting at Seattle Pacific University revealed human nature’s hideous side, just as it evoked the sublime. In the concussion of gunshots, life blasted away. In the fight-or-flight pandemonium, SPU student monitor Jon Meis pepper-sprayed the gunman while he was reloading. Other students raced to overpower the shooter.

In moments of danger, humans are hard-wired to run. Fearlessness recharged that hard wiring, as young people exhibited uncommon courage. This selfless side of human nature, the greater-good side, transcended the hate. Not only a willingness to sacrifice, but a willingness to forgive and to reconcile. It’s a testament to the deep faith of the SPU community.

School shootings are appalling because schools are a sanctuary. So, too, houses of worship (consider the 2012 Sikh temple shootings in Wisconsin.) The outcome creates a state of fear and meets the FBI’s statutory definition of domestic terrorism. Here was an attempt to intimidate a civilian population. No radical political agenda required.

Once again it’s a shooting that has the earmarks of a distraught young man living with mental illness. And the 26-year old suspect is one of us, a Mountlake Terrace resident and former Edmonds Community College student.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy, their families, and the entire SPU community,” EdCC President Jean Hernandez said in a statement. “All of us in higher education grieve together when an event such as this occurs on a college campus. The fact that the shooter was a former student at our college brings it even closer to home.”

Those living with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims, not the perpetrators of violent crime. And we know what to do.

In addition to universal background checks for firearms sales, more in-patient resources are needed to support Snohomish County’s evaluation and treatment facilities.

Another mental-health corrective is “Joel’s Law,” House Bill 2725, which unanimously passed the state House in February, but did not come to a floor vote in the Senate. The effort gives immediate family members more sway to petition the superior court for review in the event a mental health professional sidesteps protective detention for their loved one.

The political class needs to emulate the bravery on display at SPU. Support more mental-health funding, Joel’s Law and universal background checks. Enough.

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