Updated at 6:45 p.m.
Charlie Staadecker began Tuesday with a bold announcement: if elected Seattle mayor, he would “lead the charge” to monitor the mentally ill to curb gun violence. But a few hours later, he backed off his own idea.
“I would let the experts come up with what is the best plan,” he later said, and the issue needs discussion by a panel of experts.
One expert, a local mental-health advocate, called Staadecker’s monitoring idea discriminatory and outrageous.
Staadecker, a little-known real-estate agent with bow-tie-themed campaign posters, held a news conference Tuesday to discuss guns. Seattle, he said, is “not safe for either tourists or residents” because of the “deadly presence” of guns.
As a solution, he proposed funding early detection of people with mental illness. Then, he said, their mental instability would turn up in a background check if someone with a mental illness tried to buy a gun.
“Mental illness today remains underreported,” he said.
Staadecker, a long-time arts patron and former member of the Vashon Island School Board, is new to Seattle politics but has raised as much money as some of the best-known politicians in a seven-way primary.
He was surprised to learn his idea offended an advocate for the mentally ill, Christine Lindquist, the executive director of the Seattle affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
She said people with mental illness aren’t any more dangerous than anyone else. A registry of sorts would just perpetuate stigmas.
“It’s offensive that someone in Seattle would even suggest such a thing.”
Hearing that, Staadecker backpedaled.
In a phone conversation, he said he went too far when he said during the news conference that mentally ill people should be monitored.
“Monitor, I think, is too strong a word, because I don’t know what the experts would say.”
The main thing, he said, is finding a way to help people who have mental illnesses.
“I didn’t have specific guidelines,” he said. “I certainly didn’t want to come across that because you have a mental health, you’re on a registry. Is that one solution? Perhaps.”
How would he determine whether a mentally ill person should be included on the list?
Staadecker said: “If they were admitted to a mental-health hospital. … Actually, let me just think about this.”
What he’d really like to do to curb gun violence, he said, is to convene a panel of experts to talk about it.
“To develop a plan, a set of recommendations, that if somebody exhibited harm to themselves or to others, what would be a plan to help these people?”
And then he asked for Lindquist’s phone number, so he could ask for her help first.