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Originally published December 22, 2009 at 10:00 PM | Page modified December 24, 2009 at 10:39 AM

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Danny Westneat

Good enough for guns, not wheels

When our latest cop-shooter, David Crable, showed that he was suicidal, violent and abusing alcohol, the courts in October cracked down on his use of a dangerous piece of machinery.

Seattle Times staff columnist

When our latest cop-shooter, David Crable, showed that he was suicidal, violent and abusing alcohol, the courts in October cracked down on his use of a dangerous piece of machinery.

His car.

But not his guns.

"I am afraid to be in my own home with him because of the many guns he owns," his mother told the court in May.

"He carried a gun on himself at all times," said his Spanaway neighbor, Bobby Brown, Tuesday morning after Crable allegedly ambushed two Pierce County deputies, firing an estimated 10 shots from a few feet away.

This case says it all about how blasé our society is about guns. Here's a guy with a "long history of terrorizing his family." He threatens his brother and his mother. He talks about shooting himself. In June he pulls a knife on his teenage daughter and shoves her face against a wall.

"He has a little bit of a history of having weapons, he has multiple restraining orders against him from family members that he's terrorized, he does have convictions of domestic violence, and we have taken weapons from him before," summed up spokesman Ed Troyer of the Sheriff's Office.

Yet the courts order him to attend parenting classes.

And, due to a 2-year-old drunken-driving incident, to install an ignition-interlock device on his Corvette.

As for his guns? Nothing.

Those Corvettes, you've got to register them with the state. You have to pass a test to drive them. If you show you're sometimes too drunk to operate a Corvette in a safe manner, then we'll try to use technology to prevent you from starting the machine at all.

Why? Because it's dangerous.

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But guns? For the most part, it's do as you please. No way for police to know whether you've got one or an entire arsenal. Not even when you're violent, suicidal and terrorizing your family.

It's not the police or the courts' fault. They're operating by the rules we've set up. Which with guns is, barely any rules at all.

Before the gun toters go all Second Amendment on me, I have always felt the Constitution grants a broad right to own guns. The U.S. Supreme Court has settled that issue, anyway.

But rights aren't unlimited. There's nothing that bars gun registration. Or testing. Or, say, letting police track guns, with licensing or the use of microchips.

Or how about this: taking guns away from you after you threaten your 15-year-old daughter with a knife.

Now it's true: People like Crable aren't known for obeying. Maybe there was no way to prevent the seventh and eighth local police officers from being shot in the past two months.

Tougher laws might not have stopped the first police shooting. That alleged perp, Christopher Monfort, had no criminal past.

Maurice Clemmons was already barred from owning guns. Somehow he showed up that Sunday in a Pierce County coffee shop carrying a 9-mm handgun and a .38-caliber revolver, which he got from who knows where.

Laws often won't stop the lethal combo of determined plus crazy.

But here's the nagging thing — with guns we aren't even trying.

All the sobriety checkpoints and ignition-lock devices don't rid us of drunken drivers either. But they help. At least society gets the message that it matters.

With guns, it's another shooting, another collective shrug. Just the way it is, we say. Nothing to be done.

I sense the cops have had about enough of that line of argument. You could hear it in the plea Tuesday of Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.

"They risk themselves for perfect strangers," he said of his officers.

"We need to ask ourselves how we support people like that, how we back them, if they are going to stand in our stead, how we help them protect us. I would like to see the community engage in those questions and that dialogue so that we don't meet under these circumstances."

He didn't get specific. I will. Unless we start taking guns as seriously as Corvettes, it's all but certain we're going to be meeting like this again.

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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