Days after a shooting that left two people dead, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Saturday she wants to explore ways to prevent people under the influence of alcohol or drugs from having a gun.
Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, said federal law prohibits those with a chemical dependency from having guns, but she said background checks don’t really consider that issue when someone goes to buy a gun. In the case of Wednesday’s shooting in the Lake City neighborhood, police have said that Tad-Michael Norman, who has been charged with murder, reported that he was an alcoholic who had been drinking in the hours before the killings and doesn’t remember what transpired.
“If you have someone who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which the charging papers indicate, that person shouldn’t have had a weapon in their hands,” said Durkan, who appeared in a Lake City park Saturday with other local leaders. “We have to think of ways to prevent that from happening.”
While emphasizing that she wants to see more facts about the shooting, Durkan went on to say that government agencies need to develop better systems, “so that if someone has been through a program like that and has a substance-abuse program, they should not have access to weapons.”
Her office later pointed to one group’s assessment that showed a variety of states, but not Washington, with laws limiting gun access for those with alcohol issues.
Police have said Norman opened fire on random people with a 9-mm pistol in Lake City, killing one driver, 76-year-old Robert Hassan. After taking Hassan’s car, Norman is accused of crashing head-on with another driver, 75-year-old Richard T. Lee, who also died. Two others were shot: Deborah Judd, a teacher who was driving home from work, and Eric Stark, a bus driver who has been hailed as a hero for backing the bus out of the area to safety, despite a serious gunshot wound to his chest.
Cheryl Stumbo also came to the neighborhood park Saturday to offer support. She was among those shot in a 2006 mass shooting at the Seattle Jewish Federation, and she was at home in the Lake City area during the shooting. She said she shuttered herself inside, her heart pounding, as helicopters circled overhead.
Stumbo has long been an advocate for more stringent gun laws around the country. She said it was hard to make sense of this latest shooting, especially when Washington state and Seattle have taken so many steps on issues such as background checks and gun storage to limit gun violence.
“It really can happen anywhere,” Stumbo said. “We all need to live in a state of awareness.”
Dozens of people stood in the park to remember those who died, talk about supporting those who were injured, and to celebrate the power of holding each other up in a community.
Councilmember Debora Juarez, who also lives in the Lake City area, said she was focused on that community aspect and the work to be done in the aftermath of tragedy.
“We want to show more than resiliency,” Juarez said.
Asked if she sees any policies to pursue to prevent another similar shooting, Juarez said some violence is part of the messiness of life and there may be nothing that can be done to stop it.