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Vancouver teacher asks Herrera Beutler 51 times to change gun laws

When news broke that 17 were killed Wednesday at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Paul Hamann picked up the phone and called Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, as he’s done 50 other times since 2014. He’s heard back a few times and met with Herrera Beutler once on the issue, but as the shootings and deaths continue, Hamann wants more than a formulaic response. He wants action.

“As long as there’s inaction there’s always a next one,” he said.

Hamann is an English teacher at Heritage High School. His wife also teaches. He’s worried about the lives of his two young children as well as his own. Teachers continue to sacrifice themselves to save their students and if the time came, Hamann said he would do the same.

“One thing I’ve said to the congresswoman, there’s a good chance either my wife or I would teach your kids someday. When we do that, god forbid if (shootings are) still happening then I would also be willing to throw myself in front of a bullet to save her children,” he said. “I feel like she should be willing to throw herself in front of the NRA to save mine.”

Hamann has tracked every call, email and attempt at contact he’s had with Herrera Beutler regarding gun violence and school shootings. Wanting for more, he penned a letter  detailing his exhaustive experience demanding for change.

“I want to point out how emotionally expensive this has been,” he said. “When I got started I felt like I was doing my civic duty. As time went on and more and more people were killed I couldn’t stomach it anymore.”

“Despair” is the only word that comes to mind now, he added. “I know when I call, that nothing’s going to happen.”

Hamann doesn’t target Herrera Beutler alone, he also calls Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

“They’re not off the hook,” he said. “I don’t care if the red team or the blue team wins, as long as people stop getting shot.”

Herrera Beutler’s spokesperson Angeline Riesterer said the congresswoman has personally responded to Hamann 24 times in the last 12 months.

Hamann’s tracking shows he has called 23 times since Jan. 16, 2017 and notes one email response in that time.

“Absolutely not, no way, no, no, no,” Hamann said when I confirmed the number of received responses. “This goes beyond the realm of neglect and is going into the realm of outright garbage.”

Riesterer added that Herrera Beutler “will be writing him a detailed letter addressing his concerns after he contacted our office in the wake of the Florida shooting.”

Hamann, however, has just about given up faith in the system.

“After all this, I have no evidence my Congresswoman is capable of change. If shootings at elementary schools (calls #1, #25, #31, and #47), at high schools (calls #4, #42, #49, and #51), at colleges (#2 and #11), at churches (#6, #43, and #46), by white supremacists (#6, #22, and #29), of police officers (#3, #21, #23, and #27) or even of her own colleagues (#38) aren’t enough to get my Congresswoman to act, what will?”

Katy Sword

I cover the city of Vancouver and federal politics. Reach me at katy.sword@columbian.com.

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