The grisly beheading of one woman and stabbing of another by an apparently crazed man who had just been fired from the company where it all happened in Moore, Okla., Thursday is big news in Seattle, where the gun control debate is taking on a new tone, because the knife-wielding suspect was shot by a company official who had a gun in the workplace.
There has been much speculation about this incident, because the suspect, identified as Alton Nolen, a convicted felon who allegedly was trying to convert co-workers to Islam, chose a method of murder that has been in the news lately as part of the violence in the Middle East. But the fact that he was stopped by an armed citizen in the workplace is getting some attention, as well.
There was some discussion of this incident yesterday in Chicago, where the 29th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference unfolds today. Yesterday’s fire that seriously hampered air traffic at O’Hare Airport caused several speakers to miss flights, so the program is likely to see some changes today, but those in attendance at a reception Friday evening are fired up.
The annual GRPC is an event that draws activists from across the country. Co-sponsored by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Second Amendment Foundation, it has become a “must” for many in the firearms rights community, and they are just as focused on Oklahoma’s incident as other citizens.
A lively discussion has erupted in the Seattle Times reader comments over guns, who have left more than 300 comments. Like it or not, this could become part of the larger debate about gun control in America, and in Washington State.
The man with the gun has been identified as Mark Vaughan, COO at Vaughan Foods and a reserve sheriff’s deputy. But he was not on duty at the time, and essentially was an armed citizen acting within existing state law during Thursday’s incident.
Vaughan’s actions have been hailed as heroic, and the incident raises the issue of armed self-defense, gun-free workplaces and other gun control-related measures. Had Vaughan not been armed, many are suggesting that the body count could have been much higher. The suspect was shot as he was stabbing a second victim, demonstrating yet another misunderstanding about violence: It is not confined to people misusing firearms.
School authorities in several areas, including Toppenish in the Yakima Valley, have changed their attitudes about guns in the workplace. It is becoming clear that — as the saying goes — when seconds count, police are minutes away. In those critical seconds before police arrive, life-or-death actions may depend upon an armed citizen who acts as the “first responder.”
Until this year, the most insidious threat to firearms freedom was the gun prohibition lobby, but thanks to what is now happening in Washington State, gun rights activists now see anti-gun billionaires — who are protected by private security not available to average citizens — using their wealth as a weapon against the Second Amendment. No doubt this will be part of the conversation over the weekend, if not on the agenda, certainly in the background.
While the big gathering is today in Chicago, a smaller but no-less-important meeting will be held at the Lakewood Elks Lodge south of Tacoma, starting at 10:30 a.m. It’s the first of three sessions being held by the National Rifle Association to battle billionaire-funded Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure being pushed by the Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
Two other sessions are slated, one Monday evening in Spokane at VFW Post #51 and Tuesday at the Hal Holmes Center in Ellensburg. Both of those gatherings run 7-8:30 p.m.