Out of gas, and possibly out of his mind, Issaquah gunman Ronald Ficker gave Washingtonians another real time lesson why the notion of “gun free school zones” is a fantasy, and today’s revelations in the Seattle Times about his firearms show that some reporters sensationalize when they should be fleshing out details.
There has been much said about the 51-year-old Ficker’s ammunition. According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, he was carrying 952 rounds in the pockets of his cargo pants. Everyone picked up on the number, but it appears only the Times’ Sara Jean Green took the time to explain that most of it was .22-caliber rimfire ammunition for one of the two rifles Ficker was carrying, a bolt-action rimfire. The other was a lever-action .30-30 of unknown origin, though in a photo published by the Times, it appears to be a Model 94 Winchester.
Ficker, who was armed with two rifles and had 952 rounds of ammunition in his pockets when he was killed, lay prone in a drainage ditch behind the school as he fired 11 times at the Issaquah officers, who had taken cover more than 100 yards away, Strachan said. Four of the five officers, armed with AR-15 rifles, fired a total of 90 rounds, striking Ficker five times, he said.—Seattle Times
What is known is that he fired 11 rounds, all from the .30-30. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department – which is investigating the case – told this column today that Ficker moved around during the shooting. He had taken cover in a drainage ditch near Issaquah High School and adjacent Clark Elementary School. At the time, there were weekend athletics in progress at the high school, and soon as the shooting started, players and spectators began running for cover.
Gun rights and self-defense advocates are already discussing the case on the Northwest Firearms, WaGuns, Seattle Guns and Hunting-Washington forums. Ficker violated the “gun-free school zones” act, but the hundred or so parents and spectators at the Saturday morning events obeyed it, putting them at a disadvantage. That doesn’t mean this would have ended differently had there been an armed parent handy, but it does mean that if Ficker had marched toward the crowd, an armed citizen might have been there to stop him.
One rumor that must be put to rest is the report that Ficker was first shot by an armed citizen. There is no evidence this happened.
At 11:11 a.m., Ficker ran out of gas again, on Front Street near Newport Way. Abandoning the car in the middle of the street, Ficker got out, retrieved two rifles — a 30-30 lever-action rifle and a .22-caliber bolt-action rifle — and loaded his pockets with ammunition, Strachan said.
Most of the ammunition later found in Ficker’s pockets was .22-caliber, which is smaller and lighter than ammunition for the 30-30 rifle. However, Ficker fired only the 30-30, he said.—Seattle Times
Ficker apparently had some problems, because days before the incident, he reportedly appeared at the Issaquah Police Department, packing a handgun, and saying he was in danger. He also reportedly said he had a machine that could save the world. The cops prudently got Ficker to hand over his pistol, which he was apparently carrying legally. It is not clear whether they gave him back the gun, but there was no handgun recovered at the scene Saturday. The published photo shows three rifles, an old exposed-hammer double-barrel shotgun, an air rifle and crossbow.
There is one other thing. The Times reported that Issaquah police fired 90 rounds at Ficker, with AR-15 rifles, and hit him five times. Had a private citizen been using one of those, it would have become an “assault rifle.” Five hits out of 90 rounds does not seem like a very good ratio, but nobody was hit by a stray round, and Ficker was prevented from going anywhere besides the ditch. There is a value to containing an aggressive bad guy.
Designating a school zone to be “gun-free” is – after Issaquah – demonstrably delusional. Passing a law, and even posting signs, is not going to keep a dangerous kook or criminal out. It does provide a target rich, low-risk environment, however.
Firearms rights advocates might suggest it is time to seriously re-think that idea.
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