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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: Have courage – will travel

By Lou Brancaccio
Published: April 7, 2018, 6:02am

It might have been the coolest business card I ever saw as a kid.

“Have Gun – Will Travel.”

That was also the name of the popular TV Western that I watched in the early ’60s. The card was carried by Paladin, a gunslinger. It was set in the wild, wild West, where just about everyone owned a gun.

And just about everyone ended up dead. Or so it seemed. Crazy as it sounds, it appeared all so romantic, so fanciful.

But that was then and this is now. Getting shot is ugly and painful and too often deadly. We get it today. Right? Right?

• • •

It used to be when you heard the voices of the young, you could sense hope and promise and a tomorrow full of sunshine. But today — far too often — you hear something else: fear.

Two months ago students — full of hope and promise and a tomorrow full of sunshine — were gunned down, slaughtered really. It was yet another troubled teenager who easily got his hands on a killing machine, walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and began to shoot.

As in the wild, wild West, these bloodbaths are becoming business as usual. So it’s fair to ask this question: Is our lot in life to simply become resigned to this inevitable reality?

Well, if our country’s youth have anything to say about it, there might be hope.

Those Parkland students have started a movement. It showed its bright face just two weeks ago when the March for Our Lives took place. Essentially it was a march to declare enough is enough.

If you were around Vancouver and braved the cool, damp weather, you witnessed it firsthand. An estimated 1,000 joined. I was out of town but from what I read and viewed through The Columbian’s coverage, it was powerful.

Afterward, I asked Columbian education reporter Katie Gillespie, who helped cover the story, for her observations:

“Throughout my coverage on this matter, I’ve been struck by the maturity and commitment shown by all of these students. That includes the young man I spoke to who was opposed to the idea of additional gun restrictions.

“We can’t forget that these are, for the most part, children. They’re holding themselves and speaking like adults, which is remarkable given the age of some of these kids.

“As the education reporter here, I think it’s also worth adding these kids aren’t just learning reading, writing and arithmetic. They’re taking theater classes, and participating in debate programs. What a certain segment of the population thinks is ‘indoctrination’ by teachers is actually just preparing these students to do research, advocate for themselves and speak articulately in front of crowds. It’s really commendable.”

More than 800 of these marches took place all over the country. Internationally as well. Some were larger than Vancouver’s. Others were smaller.

• • •

I happened to be in Punta Gorda, Fla., during the marches. Best known as a boating haven with one of the oldest populations in the country, you wouldn’t expect this city of 16,000 to muster much support for something like this. But muster they did.

Almost 2,000 joined in Punta Gorda. And after the speeches were over, everyone marched on a bridge over a river appropriately named Peace.

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• • •

Like in so many other places, the speeches in Punta Gorda were all delivered by young people.

And one in particular moved me and so many others. Her name was Sabrina. And she was emotional.

“My mother has strong hands. She has silver hair and kind eyes. She got her master’s degree in between raising three kids and she uses it to teach English to juniors and seniors at Port Charlotte High School. If she should ever be asked to raise her strong and familiar hands in defense of her students, if she should ever be asked to squeeze a trigger to end a life, or that she should ever have to use her body as a shield as a last defense, to protect her students … is unacceptable to me.

“And our leaders have stood by, as child after child, teacher after teacher, American after American, are terrorized and murdered in their schools, their places of worship, of work, nightclubs and malls and movie theaters. Our leaders fill their pockets with the NRA’s blood money. They (say) talk of guns laws can wait for another day, they tell us to wait for the blood to dry but there is too much blood for us to wait.”

• • •

This battle to essentially limit the proliferation of guns in our society will not be easy. The Second Amendment has been interpreted to say there can be few limits on gun ownership. But is this country willing to take on the Second Amendment? About a week ago a story moved over the wire services that said retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens believes the student movement should seek a repeal of it. Stevens is a conservative but it should be noted he has taken somewhat liberal stances on gun control.

But honestly, you might have better luck hitting the lottery than seeing the Second Amendment disappear. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be altered.

• • •

I often wonder what our society would look like if there simply were no guns. A few years back I even asked Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler a marginally strange question related to this:

If she could have a society with everyone having a gun or no one having a gun, which would she choose?

Most politicians hate these hypothetical, utopian questions. And Herrera Beutler was no exception. Honestly, I don’t even remember her answer.

But utopia — for me — is always something we should strive for. And we might just get closer to it if our youth stay committed to their cause. If they remember they have to stay relentless. Who knows, a new TV show with a new business card may appear:

“Have Courage – Will Travel.”