TUKWILA — Just like virtually everyone who learned of Tuesday’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Stefan Frei is angry. Yes, he’s angry that 19 children and two adults were needlessly murdered. But he’s also angry that similar horrors continue to happen with virtually nothing changing.
“I feel a lot of anger that we’re still in the exact same place,” Frei told reporters after Wednesday’s training session. “Every freaking time, it’s ‘thoughts and prayers.’ It doesn’t mean shit, honestly. It doesn’t help anything. We need some actual action.”
Since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2017, Frei has made a habit of speaking his mind on various non-soccer topics. He’ll admit that he tends to skew leftward politically, but he also takes pride in trying to see the various sides of what are often complicated issues.
Knowing that he spends a good deal of time thinking about these issues, I asked if he wanted to share his thoughts about what happened at Robb Elementary. He responded with an answer more than three minutes long. It wasn’t just the length of his answer that was notable, it was the passion.
Growing up in Switzerland, Frei is quite familiar with what it’s like to have guns in the house. The country of about 8 million people has about 2 million guns and most households have at least one due to the requirement for adult males to serve in the military. Among Western European nations, only Austria (30.0) and Liechtenstein (28.8) have more guns per 100 people than Switzerland (27.6).
But Frei says the people of Switzerland have a very different relationship with guns than we do in the United States, where the rate of ownership is nearly four times as high (and about twice that of any other nation). Despite guns being reasonably common in Switzerland, mass shootings are exceedingly rare.
“I was taught from an early age to go nowhere near that thing,” Frei said of the gun in his childhood home. “It’s such a powerful thing that’s just there for defense in case our country gets invaded. You build this crazy amount of respect for a piece of equipment.
“I just don’t understand why we have to have 18-year-olds running around with [assault rifles]. Self-defense? I understand it. I’ve spoken to people. My tattoo guy has gotten his shop robbed numerous times. Do you need an AR for that? I don’t understand it. Maybe a shotgun. Maybe a pistol. Something like that.”
While Frei doesn’t sound inclined to ban all guns, he believes there must be a balance and that right now, we’re far too tilted one way.
“The only thing we’re doing is we’re allowing the chance that somebody, yes, who’s unstable and might need help mentally, but we’re giving him access to something with which he can do great damage,” he said. “That’s an issue. If that’s not worth you taking an AR to a shooting range then we need to fix our priorities. It means you’re okay with a child cowering in fear every day of their lives while they go to school just so you can shoot your little gun at a shooting range or whatever. We just need to figure out our priorities, it’s ridiculous.”
Frei is, of course, not a politician. He does not have a policy solution ready to go, nor should anyone expect him to. But just like so many of us, he’s mainly just angry that in absence of a perfect solution that tragedies like this end up being used as just another reason to ask for money.
“We need to elect people who are going to do something about it but the people who have been elected to do something about it need to do something as well,” he said. “It’s not a bargaining chip to get people to vote more for you, it’s for you to go do something. Don’t use this to rile up your base and put down the opposing base. Use this to actually change something because people are actually dying. Kids are dying.”