Gun advocates: death toll at Cascade Mall could have been lower if witnesses had guns

Local gun rights advocates rallied in Olympia Saturday on the front steps of the state Capitol building, claiming that if the Cascade Mall had allowed citizens to carry their legal guns, the death toll Friday night might have been lower.

“If people were allowed to carry and they were trained, absolutely they could have possibly lowered the casualty rate,” Christina Sheppard, a guns rights advocate, said.

About 120 people attended the event, many touting firearms, including holstered handguns, assault weapons and hunting rifles. One of the event organizers says you just can’t take away all the guns.

“It’s not going to happen,” said Rick Halle with the Gun Rights Coalition. “It just isn’t going to happen. We have 300 million-plus guns in the United States. You can’t take them away.”

The peaceful rally was sponsored by the Gun Rights Coalition, according to the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services.

The rally, planned before the Cascade Mall shooting, started at 11 a.m. and ended at about 3 p.m. and was open to the public.

“With the one that happened in Burlington when it comes right down to it, if we’re attacked in a mall, it doesn’t really matter where it is,” Halle said. “99.9 percent of the time the police are not there immediately to respond. We’re in the best position to respond when something happens, if something happens to us. It doesn’t mean we’re out here to start a gunfight, but it means we’re out there to be able to protect ourselves and be able to deter it in the first place.

“It’s a tragedy, for sure.”

The rally was based on new anti-firearm bills proposed by state representatives and Initiative 1491. Citizens, politicians and representatives from local groups spoke.

“We’re going to be working to try to keep that from passing because it’s got a lot of due process issues,” Halle said

Some advocates also claimed that, had the mall allowed citizens to carry guns, the suspect might be in custody or dead.

“Who’s going to be able to stop them if they have ill intentions? We are,” Halle said. “Armed citizens are a deterrent. Once these criminals learn that they may be facing armed citizens, they’re going to stop doing this.”

Meanwhile, at Cal Anderson Park on Saturday, about 100 people rallied in favor of Initiative 1491.

“I am outraged, saddened and shocked at what happened last night,” said Jane Weiss, whose niece was killed in the 2004 mass shooting in Isla Vista, Calif. “I too have gotten that phone call that no one wants to get.”

Shannon Watts with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said what happened Friday night in Burlington was unacceptable.

“But it’s also preventable,” she said. “And that is why we are all here today.”