I just walked into the aftermath of a mass shooting.
I took the dog for a frolic in a park, as is my wont, and on this occasion we chose little Ravenna park, on the northern edge of the University District.
(We didn’t frolic in that kind of fragile area, but in a flat grassy area at the top of the ravine.)
I drove up pretty Ravenna Boulevard toward Green Lake to take the scenic route home, but was stymied by a big roadblock full of people and cop cars and tv trucks with the huge towers. Wussup, I thought, and seeing people wandering around, I parked and let the dog out and wandered around myself. I thought it must be a movie, because of all the media trucks, except it was puzzling that they could afford that many cops. But then we were on a side street a block away from the stopped police cars, heading back to the car, when four cops and a civilian came along, the civilian explaining something about a garage or storage area behind a shop, which he hadn’t been in for several days…Two of the cops had
machine guns assault rifles. Machine guns. Assault rifles.
This is not a movie, I said to myself. I watched what the four did – they went up the alley behind the building in question and stood peering at it. The tallest one tried to see onto the flat roof. I decided to go away then.
So I did, and I turned on the radio, and was informed that someone had shot five people at the Cafe Racer, and was out there somewhere. Two of the people were dead. A third was reported dead while I drove past Green Lake.
This is the Roosevelt-Ravenna neighborhood, just north of the U District. I have friends who live around there.
The people shot were in a band, performing.
This freaks me out.
Traveling Txn says
*virtual hugs of sympathy*
Hope the other two people who were shot come out OK, and hope none of them are anyone one you know. Hope they catch the shooter before he hurts anyone else.
Paul Weaver says
What specifically do you mean when you say the police had machine guns? Real machine guns – belt fed, full-auto only machine guns, fired from a bipod or tripod? Or simply sub-machine guns (pistol-caliber weapons capable of firing semi- or full-auto) or various forms of assault or battle rifles?
Aratina Cage says
Scary! I’m glad you got out of there safely.
At least two of the people shot dead, Joe and Drew, were friends of friends, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the same’s true of the others. I’d just been looking up Joe the other day to see if he gave bass lessons, in fact; he was an amazing, inspiring bassist. And Drew was the sweetest guy you could imagine. We went to see them at Cafe Racer a few weeks ago; the whole place was singing along with them. Drew was radiant with love for everybody. I’m gutted.
Ophelia Benson says
Oh, Jesus, Cam. Fucking hell.
Ophelia Benson says
I was thinking of you two – you being music types, cafe types, nice people in cafes playing music types – and in the area.
Fuck fuck fuck.
Reeling from afar. Can’t even imagine how my Seattle peeps are all feeling right now. * hugs*
Dana Hunter says
Oh, Ophelia. *hugs*
It’s a testament to Seattle that this sort of thing doesn’t happen often and when it does, the SPD are on it while the media reports it soberly and quickly and the community comes together with sharp eyes and cooperation with law enforcement.
My condolences to the friends and family, to the community that the victims (and the shooter) belonged to.
Probably just assault rifles, which isn’t uncommon for police in big cities. I seriously doubt they’d carry machine guns
Dear NRA: Please tell me again why you want so many effing guns on the street?
This sucks. At least it’s just one gunman, contrary to earlier reports. Who, like Shroedinger’s cat, may or may not be dead.
Cam: This REALLY sucks for you. I’m so sorry.
Ophelia Benson says
Yes, I suppose they were rifles. I’m being a fluffy ignoramus here. Anyway, big. Big, big, big guns.
Josh Slocum says
What a horror. I’m so sorry Ophelia and Cam.
Midnight Rambler says
From the updated AP story:
Thanks again, NRA and Congress.
What a bizarre occurrence. They used rifles to kill a band?! My deepest condolences to those affected.
Btw, it seems the final tally is 5 dead and one seriously wounded if this CNN report is anything to go by:
So it seems it was some sort of crazed gunman. Sickening.
This is terrible — and tragedies just like it happen far too often, although usually it’s in “someone else’s” neighborhood.
I again fail to see how easy access to guns makes anyone safer.
I remember coming home from school to find my road crammed with armed policemen. An axe-wielding maniac – who turned out to the product of a deranged imagination – was said to be on the loose. One is rarely as aware of the fragility of our lives as when there’s the potential for shooting.
My sympathy to Ophelia and Cam.
Gregory in Seattle says
The Seattle Times has some background information here.
The shooter had a history of anger issues and aggressive behavior and had been tossed from Cafe Racer several times before. For reasons that will probably never be explained, he showed up yesterday with a gun, killed people, then fled. A few miles away, he shot a woman and stole her car. When the police caught up with him, he killed himself.
I didn’t know any of the people involved, but I used to live about two blocks from Cafe Racer, and went there on a few occasions. I now live about a quarter mile from where the woman was shot, and there is a good chance that the killer went right past my apartment building going from one location to the other.
My sympathies. How horrible.
Paul W. (OM) says
I think that in the vernacular, “machine gun” is often used to mean “fully automatic weapon,” and the crucial feature is that you can pull the trigger once, hold it down, and spray bullets with it.
So a submachine gun or fully automatic carbine is a smallish light machine gun, and an Uzi submachine pistol is a very small and very light machine gun.
That makes perfect sense, and is IMO not actually wrong. It’s a fine vernacular usage–even a very good one.
The “official” technical terminology makes a lot less sense. A machine gun is a relatively heavy “light” fully automatic weapon, usually but not always mounted on a stand (or at least a bipod or something), often but not always belt-fed, etc. You may be able to handhold it, but it’s probably pretty awkward to hold and fire standing up.
The basic idea is that it’s a relatively heavy-duty automatic light weapon (heavy-duty compared to most hand-helds), and in particular that it can lay down suppressing fire, shooting continuously or nearly-continuously for more than a handful of seconds. (Maybe indefinitely, or maybe for up to about a minute before it empties its large but finite conventional magazine, or overheats, or whatever.)
Normal people should not be expected to understand that weird and superficial distinction, or to care about it.
It’s stupid to expect people to understand that if you make a machine gun too light or light-duty, it’s somehow not a machine gun at all anymore. (Rather than it simply being a light machine gun.) And at the other end of the spectrum, it should be fine to call a larger-caliber autocannon or chain gun a (heavy) “machine gun,” too.
IMO, if the pro jargoners want a term specific to middleweight suppression-fire weapons they should come up with an appropriate, obviously technical term, like “suppression gun” and use that, rather than trying to tell us that too-light or not-light-enough machine guns somehow aren’t machine guns at all, in vernacular English.
That’s just dumb technical jargon, and nobody should have to defer to it in normal English. (You’re speaking entirely sensibly, not being a fluffy ignoramus.)
TL;DR: there’s really nothing wrong with calling a light machine gun a machine gun, no matter what the gun geeks say. It’s bad jargon they’re defending.
Except that it’s incorrect, inaccurate, means nothing like what people assume…
For instance, in this case, saying people were toting “machine guns”, when the weapons involved may not (and in fact probably weren’t)capable of fully automatic fire at all.
It’s not stupid to expect some modicum of accuracy. I don’t expect people to be experts in all areas (and particularly, in this case, in a blog, that’s ok). But to dismiss accurate terminology as “bad jargon”, when in fact it’s important information, is the same serious mistake that has lead scientists, military men and many other professionals to disparage the press as “useless know-nothings’ – because they don’t even try to get it right.
Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform says
OMG. I’m glad you weren’t in the middle of all that, Ophelia.
Cam, I am so, so sorry. Peace to you and your friends.
To everyone who knew the victims, I am sorry for your loss.
Paul Weaver, the OP is talking about a traumatic event that Ophelia witnessed a portion of. She is not a reporter. Who the fuck cares whether she got the type of weapon the cops were carrying right? Well, you do, I guess. I suspect few others do. Your first comment seemed more than a tad pedantic. The second post was just plain obnoxious. The point of the OP was not what kind of weapon the cops were carrying, okay?
@ Paul W. (OM) – Agreed.
@ Paul Weaver – Irrelevant smart-arsery, and totally missing the point.
Big hugs to Ophelia & Cam.
@ NRA – Guns kill people. This type of atrocity could not be carried out without a gun (of any type).
Paul W. (OM) says
If Ophelia called guns that she didn’t think were full auto “machine guns,” then yes, she used the wrong term in either the vernacular sense or the jargony sense.
And yes, if the guns were not in fact full auto, but she thought they were, she was using the vernacular term just fine, but mistaken in point of fact. (But some full auto rifles are indistinguishable from semiauto ones… the only difference is small and internal.)
You are right that in such situations, the police are unlikely to use full auto weapons in full auto mode. They don’t want to spray a lot of bullets and maybe hit bystanders (directly or with ricochets)… they want carefully take one guy out, usually with one well-placed shot.
(I don’t know what happens if they have to rush the guy because he’s in the process of killing more people… might they use brief 3-shot auto bursts, but not longer, to avoid spraying bullets around? I’m not up on SWAT-type tactics…)
Ophelia Benson says
Jeez – I jumped to the conclusion that they were machine guns without really thinking about it, ok? On being nudged I realized they were probably assault rifles or whatever big gun of that type it is that cops use in situations like this. I said that. Enough already.
Paul W. (OM) says
By the way, if you want to know why I responded the way I did, focusing on the full auto vs. not full auto issue, look at Paul Weaver’s comment that I was responding to.
The first distinction he makes is between full auto-only belt-fed, mounted “machine guns” and mere submachine (full auto or semi-auto) guns, and from the phrasing it doesn’t appear to be particularly important whether a submachine gun is full-auto capable.
My point is that either is reasonably called a machine gun, if it’s full auto capable, and that being belt-fed is a complete red herring. A “machine gun” (in the technical jargon) can use a finite but large magazine, and the essential feature is non-obvious: that it be able to lay down enough suppressing fire for long enough to repel (or deter) the typical attack by a modest number of more mobile people with lighter weapons (e.g., assault weapons). It has to be able to fire a fair number of reasonably heavy bullets every few seconds for about a minute, and it doesn’t matter a bit what technology is used to achieve that.
Restricting the term “machine gun” to such suppression-fire weapons in the vernacular is ridiculous, because even the people who quibble geekily about what a “machine gun” is or isn’t generally don’t themselves know what makes such a machine gun a “real” machine gun in that technical, jargony sense. Even if they get that it’s a sustained fire weapon, they often don’t know how long it’s got to sustain that fire to qualify, and that only makes sense when you understand the strategy for repelling or deterring a certain class of attacks in a certain class of tactical situations. That is just not the kind of distinction you should expect people to know in common speech—especially if the name gives no hint as to the criteria—or to care about.
(In contrast, the term “assault weapon” is a pretty good one—it at least suggests what the thing is for, which makes sense of the category: e.g., it’s gotta be reasonably light so that you can carry it while running up to shoot at people, and not stopping to place a stand before shooting it, and not have too much recoil to be used effectively hand-held, standing up, by somebody with a more typical physique than Rambo. You can understand why something is “not an assault weapon” if you couldn’t easily carry it up a hill and shoot it. That makes much more sense than saying something “isn’t a machine gun” because you can only shoot it for 30 seconds, not 60.)
“This type of atrocity could not be carried out without a gun (of any type).”
Irish bombers, machete wielding Africans, and naked Floridians would disagree with you. This story is scary because someone went crazy and started klling people. I don’t find the fact that he used a gun to be the scary part. What I find alarming is this guy apparently wandered around after he left the cafe and could have killed many more, including the host of this site and a few commenters here.
Right out of the gate with the second comment someone is being a smartass. Who cares what she called it? You knew what was meant. It doesn’t seem appropriate to derail this way.
Paul W. (OM) says
Sorry for that last bit of belaboring… our comments crossed.
Midnight Rambler says
Vall, the NRA has successfully defeated all laws that would prevent people with diagnosed serious mental illness from being able to buy guns. I’m going to bet this guy wasn’t capable of building a bomb and wouldn’t have been able to kill six people with a machete.
Paul W. (OM) says
I think it’s much more difficult to carry out “this kind of atrocity” without a gun, if you understand “this kind” reasonably narrowly—and I’m pretty sure most Irish bombers and machete-wielding Africans would agree.
Machete-wielding Africans generally do not launch solo attacks against groups of people in larger groups of people. They attack in groups, and generally attack groups of comparable or smaller size, so that they have overwhelming force. If you want to take out a certain group people, in person, single-handed, guns are the way to go—it’s easier to run from somebody with a machete, and more of them are likely to get away.
I think your typical machete-wielding killer would prefer to use a gun if he had one, and/or would often opt not to attack in situations where a machete is unlikely to be of comparable efficacy and safety—e.g., where too many would successfully flee or effectively counterattack or pursue somebody with a machete, but not somebody with a gun.
Guns have the range to 1) kill several people before any of them get away, 2) deter people from surrounding and capturing or killing you, and 3) deter people from following you while you try to get away after killing those people. You are therefore more likely to kill who you want, and more likely to get away afterwards.
And even most crazy people know that, which is why these people choose guns over machetes. They’re not wrong to choose guns—guns work much better than machetes for “this sort of atrocity.”
Also, most Irish bombers are doing something very different from what this nut did. They don’t want to dramatically wade in and slay the foe in front of an audience. They don’t want to be noticed at all, or even to be there when it happens.
Gun attacks have a certain appeal for many lone nuts that other kinds of attacks just don’t. They’re just hands-on enough to appeal to people who want to attack very dramatically and personally, but still very lethally, and with a decent chance of getting away. (If only long enough to attack somewhere else before eventually getting caught.)
As for face-eating naked Floridians… well, most lone nuts who’d attack groups using guns would NOT opt to strip naked and try to eat people’s faces if they didn’t have guns. They’re not that crazy, or not crazy in that way, so they’re irrelevant.
Nobody’s claiming that reducing the availability of guns would eliminate all kook violence. Of course not. It would just reduce the frequency and the average effectiveness.
I stand by my statement. My point is killing can be accomplished without a gun. Of course it’s easier with a gun, but it is just a tool. It is even easier to not kill anybody, so I see “the killer” as the problem, not how he kills.
If you narrow down the “kind” to “shooting people in a cafe, then wander two miles and shoot someone else” then, yes you are right. I concede your point.
My second point was a tone troll of sorts. I don’t want that role, I just thought it was out of place to be pedantic about word usage when common use is fine.
Look, I’m not a pro-gun NRA type, and I resent taking on the defense here but allow me to point something out:
“Vall, the NRA has successfully defeated all laws that would prevent people with diagnosed serious mental illness from being able to BUY guns.”
Emphasis on BUY is mine. What’s to stop him from finding, stealing, building, or inheriting one? Guns exist. They are real and no amount of laws can change that. Yes restrict them, restrict the hell out of them, no argument from me. Stop the flood please.
And here we go betting again, you are saying you don’t think a crazy person could kill someone with a machete? I say ONLY a crazy person could kill someone with a machete.
Paul W. (OM) says
Well, yeah. Of course.
Sure it’s easier, and that’s important. And sure it’s “just a tool” but that doesn’t carry the freight you want it to—it doesn’t make the “easier” part any less important. Your statement doesn’t contradict any point anybody’s actually making.
Ah, there’s your mistake. There’s no the problem to anything as complex and multileveled and intractable as this.
We all agree that violently crazy people are a problem. That doesn’t mean that violently crazy people with easy access to guns aren’t a different problem than violently crazy people without easy access to guns, or that the easy access to guns isn’t part of that worse problem, and thus an identifiable, worthy of even partial solutions if they’re practical.
Causal webs are complicated like that.
Suppose, for example, some people die of heart attacks or strokes because they can’t afford medicine to control their blood pressure, etc. That’s a problem, even if their susceptibility to heart attacks and stroke is often largely due to prior bad diet and insufficient exercise.
The fact that bad diet or insufficient exercise is a problem doesn’t mean it’s the problem. It doesn’t mean the unavailability of medicines isn’t also a problem, and perhaps a more soluble one, worth addressing. There are lots of problems involved—e.g., genetics that make people prone to overeating and liking fatty and salty foods, and not liking lots of exercise, etc. Maybe maybe bad genetics is the problem. (Or going deeper, maybe the problem is that there’s no God and evolution has fucked us up…)
There’s no point in calling something “the” problem unless it’s a necessary and sufficient cause of the larger problem, and it’s soluble.
That is, it’s only worth calling a more general problem the problem if (a) it includes the more specific problem in question as a special case, and (b) you have a good solution to the more general version.
Without that, you do what you can by attacking various contributory subproblems and special cases. (E.g., trying to get people to eat better, or make exercise more fun, or trying to find ways to address bad genetics, and making helpful medicines affordable too in the meantime.
Likewise, unless you have a practical solution to the subproblem of crazy people wanting to do things like that (shooting people with guns), it’s just wrong to say that’s the problem.
That’s just not what “the problem” can reasonably mean.
It’s about as useful as saying that the unavailability of medicines isn’t a problem because the problem is that fats and salt make things yummier. As long as you don’t have a cost-effective way of making fats and salt not yummy, it’s irrelevant to solving the overall problem.
That’s about as useful as saying that the problem is there’s no God—unless you can make there be a God who will fix it all for us, and do so in a cost-effective way, it’s a moot point, and we should find more specific solutions to more specific problems.
We’re talking risk factors and causal webs here. Making an either/or statement about the problem is silly, unless you have a practical solution that subsumes the others.
I can make my argument reasonably specific, and it works. Your making it even more specific and fail to work has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of my argument.
There’s no either/or choice between extremely general and very specific problems. If a problem is adequately solvable at a given level of specificity, and worth the cost at that granularity, that’s good. It’s worth solving that problem. If you can generalize it and it’s it’s practical to solve the more general problem, that’s even better. But if you narrow the scope and find something not worth solving, that’s fucking irrelevant.
It’s like me saying that raising awareness of diet issues and availability of blood pressure medicines among black people is worthwhile, because they’re a high-risk group, and you ridiculing that by comparing it to focusing on diet and medicines specifically for albino pygmies in Cleveland. The fact that your narrowing the scope makes it too narrow doesn’t mean that mine did. You have to show that my chosen granularity was already too specific, and that a more general version of the problem has a reasonably effective and practical solution.
If you think you made a reductio ad absurdam of my argument, you clearly didn’t understand the argument, or chose to pretend you didn’t. There’s a big difference between a reduction to absurdity and a bad, point-missing parody.
I’m lost. What was your “second point”?
Ophelia – sorry, wasn’t trying to disparage your reporting of the incident. It’s a bit of a shock to see miltary-style weapons in the hands of police, and I certainly wasn’t trying to call you out or be pedantic about your terminology.
Paul W. (OM) – Also sorry if I came across as somewhat strident. I just felt you were a little dismissive of using the correct terminology. I don’t expect Ophelia to know the difference if she hasn’t got an interest or background in weapons – this is a blog, after all, not a news service. But in those cases, I would expect them to do the background checking to determine what they’re talking about – and it’s the attitude that this is “bad jargon” that lets them off the hook when the don’t. It drives me up the wall when they refer to a weapon as an “Assault rifle” when showing an MP-5 Submachine gun, or a “Battleship” that’s obviously a Destroyer. Still, I shouldn’t have taken that out on you.
In answer to your question, Police would lay down semi-auto “advancing fire” on the target, walking slowly towards the person they were trying to stop while firing steadily and regularly. Even if they kept missing the perpetrator (which is actually rather likely) he would be too busy taking cover and being suppressed to harm further innocents.
Honesty compels me to further state that they would probably do the above rather badly. I’ve been involved in quasi-military training, and getting people to stay calm and enact the advancing fire routine well when stressed is very hard. This is one reason why full-auto and even burst-fire weapons are contraindicated for police – in the very instances when they would be useful, they’d probably be too likely to cause friendly fire incidents to be used.
“or that the easy access to guns isn’t part of that worse problem, and thus an identifiable, worthy of even partial solutions if they’re practical”
I don’t think there are easy solutions to this complex problem. I agree completely. I guess I was being lazy by not addressing the bigger problem. My silence doesn’t mean I’m not considering it, I just don’t have a solution. I wish it were an easy problem to fix, but it’s not. Banning sales won’t do anything for guns already in existance and buying them is not the only path to gun ownership.
“There’s no point in calling something “the” problem unless it’s a necessary and sufficient cause of the larger problem, and it’s soluble.”
I disagree with that statement completely. Also, the “the” problem I was talking about was this case in particular. In this case, a person killed and injured others and how easy he did it is beside the point. You seem fixated on the ease, without considering it’s easier not to kill in the first place. That is why I identified the person that did the killing as responsible, not the tool used. That person decided to kill people, I’m not going to get caught up in how or why. If that person decided not to kill people none of this would have happened, even if there were no such things as guns.
My second point was aimed at #2. If a person looks at an AR-15 and says “machine gun,” they are not wrong, it’s just more accurate to say assault rifle. I’ve never read a definition for machine gun that says it has to be belt-fed and mounted. That’s just being a smartass. Not everyone is up on the latest Army classification. Also consider the author just came upon the scene while it was still going on. When the cops break out the big guns, something serious is going down. I would spend my time putting some distance from the area instead of worring about what kind of weapon it was.
If Ian hadn’t had a firearm, maybe he would have been able to kill Drew. (It’s Drew, I imagine, at whom he was angriest.) But I don’t believe he would have been able to go on to kill Joe, Kim, and Don and to nearly kill Len. And I do not believe he would have made it out of Cafe Racer to kill Gloria Leonidas. Cafe Racer is a tight-knit scene, full of exactly the kinds of people I’d want at my back in a situation like that. No, Ian would have gone down under a hail of barstools. It’s true that we would have lost some people. But not so many. Not so many.
So, yes. The ease of this killing is very much on the mind of a lot of people around here, and for good reason.
But it’s not the only thing. There’s no way in hell that Ian should have had those guns, but he did, and legally. And that’s in part because it’s incredibly difficult in this state to get someone involuntarily committed. It should be difficult, yes, but the truth is that it’s next to impossible.
It’s also true that the prison system is not known for doing well by its mentally ill inmates. I strongly suspect this was a factor in why Ian never made it to court for beating up his brother and his girlfriend. Not that a history of domestic violence convictions can necessarily keep someone from getting a gun legally. There was a NYT article about gun-rights restoration not long ago. Short version: it is bizarrely easy in this state.
This is about the time when mental-health advocates start talking about Providing Resources and Getting Help, and while they’re not wrong, those people need to look into their hearts as well. It wasn’t just Reagan who worked to close the mental institutions, you know.
Mental health advocates for decades have hammered at the general public with the notion that Mentally Ill People Aren’t Dangerous. (Usually followed by the statement that they’re more likely to be victims, as if that were some kind of evidence of harmlessness.) That cliche does not much resemble the kind of discussions that practitioners have among themselves when their own asses are on the line. A middle-aged woman with an anxiety disorder does not present the same kind of risk as a bipolar man with a substance abuse problem and a history of belligerence. Lumping them all under the umbrella term “the mentally ill” for the sake of making social change is a sketchy move. For years, in the name of reducing stigma and ameliorating the loneliness of severely mentally ill people, the mental health advocate community has worked to shame everyone who wants to keep themselves safer from those mentally ill people who do present a real risk.
Ophelia Benson says
Yes. I was thinking about that yesterday – naturally, but I thought about it especially while driving home southbound on the Aurora bridge: it was a guy with mental health problems who shot the driver of the 358 bus southbound on the Aurora bridge, causing the bus to go out of control and plunge off the bridge onto the roof of an apartment building below. A few seconds later and it would have plunged much farther and killed everyone on board.
Again, oddly enough, I happened on the scene shortly afterwards.
There just are some people who should be committed, for the safety of the rest of us.
A year and a half ago, we had something similar happen here in Tucson. A mentally ill young man with access to a weapon, and a number of lives cut short. There were plenty of warning signs.
To give you an idea where our priorities lie, Here’s my own experience: I’m a convicted felon (long story, long ago). A few months ago, I decided to petition the judge to get my rights reinstated. When standing before the judge, he seemed to focus on only one of those rights – the right to bear arms. His questions dealt mostly with that. Me? I just wanted to vote.
I finally interrupted him and said, “Your Honor, I haven’t felt the need to own or operate a firearm since I was in the military, almost 30 years ago. There is very little that would make me consider changing that policy, except, perhaps, the complete collapse of civilization, in which case having permission to do so would be moot.”
The man had no sense of humor. He had a Sheriff’s deputy escort me from the courthouse.
My point is, that’s it’s much easier for me to get a gun, than it is for me to effect democratic, peaceful change. Apparently, my experience is not uncommon.