Thirty years ago this week, former Canadian Army corporal Denis Lortie walked into the Quebec National Assembly (their provincial assembly) with a variety of weapons including a submachine gun, shouting "Where are the MNA's [Members of the National Assembly]? I want to kill them."
Within moments he had shot 16 government employees, killing 3. He then proceeded to the Chamber, where he sat in the Speaker's Chair, shooting at the MNA's as they cowered between the benches.
How did these horrific events end? It did not end as the NRA says with "a good man with a gun." It ended with a good man talking Lortie down.
René Marc Jalbert, a Second World War and Korean War veteran, was the Assembly's Sergeant-at-Arms. (The Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible organizing building services and security in the legislature, as well as having ceremonial duties such as bringing in the mace.) Jalbert calmly walked into the Chamber and spoke to Lortie, at one point saying to him "If you keep shooting we can't have a conversation." Jalbert continued to speak to Lortie for hours, eventually convincing Lortie to come with him to his basement office, where the standoff ended.
A TV camera in the National Assembly caught the events as they unfolded. I have vague memories of seeing some of the footage after it happened back in the 80's. Watching it again now, it is striking how calm Jalbert is through all of this. The only time he seems to get exasperated is when police come into the Chamber and won't leave when Jalbert tells him to. He actually tells the police to go away and get them some coffee with cream and sugar.
Denis Lortie was found to be a paranoid schizophrenic who was operating under the delusion that he was under orders from God. Despite his mental illness he ultimately pled guilty to second degree murder and served 11 years in prison before being paroled.
For his actions that day, René Marc Jalbert was awarded the Cross of Valour, Canada's highest civilian award for bravery. He passed away from cancer in 1996.