About 400 yards west of Coeur d’Alene High School’s student walkout Wednesday, a second group – this one made up of adults, armed with semi-automatic weapons and handguns – staged a counterprotest.
Standing along a fence facing Government Way, the 40 or so open-carry advocates – many of them veterans – stood in soggy conditions for about an hour, occasionally acknowledging honks of support from passing vehicles and exchanging pro-Second Amendment talking points.
A month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, schools across the country staged 17-minute protests Wednesday to advance school safety and pressure Congress to pass stronger gun control legislation.
The counterprotesters’ signs conveyed their displeasure with the movement.
“End gun-free zones in schools,” read one sign.
“Dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery,” read another.
The protest began and ended with a prayer by the counterprotest’s organizer, Brian Welch of Athol. His Facebook page called the gathering a “North Idaho Carry 2nd Amendment Rally.”
Many of the counterprotesters described measures they believe would better protect schools from shootings. They also shared their condolences for the victims of those shootings.
Welch believes if the AR-15 rifle – a weapon used in several school shootings, including Parkland – is banned, it could open the door for an all-out gun ban.
“Once we give one up, then all of our rights are at risk,” Welch said.
Jesse Stinton, 28, echoed Welch: “When rights are lost, they aren’t given back easily.”
“I think most (participating in the student walkout) have good intentions,” Stinton said. “But I also think if there’s an event at a high school, if kids have an excuse to get out of class, they’re going to take it.”
One man pointed to a group of media members and asked how a gun, on its own, could shoot and kill someone.
“Hey, gun, get up and shoot him,” the man said after he placed his gun down. “Come on, get up and shoot him. Because that’s what they’re all saying out there and I am tired of it.”