Bellingham High students march against gun violence

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 17, 2014 

Bellingham High School students march from the school to Bellingham City Hall Tuesday, June 17, 2014, to protest against gun violence in schools.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - When Bellingham High School sophomore Lucy Evans heard that a teen killed a fellow student and then shot himself at Oregon's Reynolds High School on June 10, she thought about writing a letter.

But then she figured that any letter she wrote probably would just end up in a politician's trash can. Instead, she decided to organize a march against gun violence, rallying about 50 students and parents on the last day of school Tuesday, June 17, to march from Bellingham High School to City Hall.

"I was just really mad about it and feeling a lot of anger that no one was doing anything about it," she said of gun violence in schools.

"We're only teenagers and we don't have the power to write legislation," she said. "We want to feel safe in our schools. We want our elected representatives to come out in support of us and in support of safer gun legislation and add their voice to those around the country who have come out in support of gun control and ending gun violence in schools."

Evans and two other students spoke on the steps of City Hall about the unacceptable levels of gun violence in schools and the subtle, persistent fear students feel that at any moment a shooter could walk into a school and open fire.

"This fear that most of us have is a sign that something is gravely wrong with our country and something needs to be fixed," she said to the crowd.

Lorraine McCalla, who just finished her freshman year at Bellingham, said she wants to see an end to school shootings.

"I want there to be a way to stop the people who are going to do that," she said. "The people that do these shootings, a lot of them need help themselves."

Bellingham sophomore Maya Enstad came to the march with her boyfriend and her mother, and all three said that addressing mental health should be a priority, especially since guns have been such a polarizing topic.

"We just don't understand how a person can have something in his shoes and change how we travel, and yet there are so many shootings and no change in the legislation," Cheryl Enstad said, referencing the changing restrictions on air travel.

During the march from the high school to City Hall, the students were joined by two men with handguns in holsters on their hips. Bellingham residents John Laigaie and Rob Stratton, both advocates of open carry laws, heard about the march and decided to come see what the students had to say. They watched as the students spoke at City Hall, and Laigaie sang along with the students to "America, the Beautiful."

"My whole reason for open carrying is to normalize it, to show that good people carry guns," Stratton said.

Evans and her parents came over to talk to the men after she spoke and gave a petition to the mayor's office. The men congratulated her on her speech and engaged in some debate about how to reduce gun violence at schools.

"I don't think there was a lot I would agree with with what they had to say," Stratton said of the students. "But I'd fight to the death for their right to say it."

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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