Walter Stephens

My Voice

About the author

Walter Stephens, 78, is a semi-retired farmer and rancher. During the productive years, he and his wife, Patricia, lived in south Georgia where they produced kids, cattle, trees and peanuts. They presently reside near Union during the summer and return to Georgia in winter.

My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only. My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. We edit submissions for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We reject those published elsewhere. Send columns to La Grande Observer, 1406 5th St., La Grande, Ore., 97850, fax them to 541-963-7804 or email them to .

Are guns the only problem or is the quest for fame part of the tragic equation?

Consider this: I’m 78 and haven’t accomplished much with life. There’s no fame, little is listed on the internet, except an address, and now at the end I want to be remembered. Maybe the quickest and easiest way to become famous: a terroristic act.

Or consider this: I’m 18 and my girlfriend just said, “Get lost.” I want her to realize just what she meant to me and perhaps shed a tear when she realizes what I’ve done. How best do I achieve immediate international fame? Maybe with a gun.

Or consider: I’m 64 and have been a “high roller” in the casinos but am bored with it all and think it’s time to go out “with a bang.” Las Vegas would be a good place to create a scene and become famous; good tools would be guns.

In these cases, my tools of choice would be guns, which fire and reload with each trigger pull. They would not look like the old-time hunting rifles, but are angry, mechanical devices that enhance the
macho image I want to portray. I’d not select something traditional like the Browning Short Trac or Remington Woodmaster, which are semiautomatic and large caliber. I’d want something that looks lethal, such as the AR15 or LaRue Tactical Predator or maybe the AK47.

With these tools in my wardrobe, I know that during and after the chaos and tragedy the cameras will be clicking; the broadcasters commentating and the printing presses gearing up to advertise my name and photograph, my relatives, home, history, friends and motives.

I’d be immediately famous, an international notorious figure; my tools were not only guns but also the Fourth Estate — the newspapers, TV, radio — the organized press.

In my opinion, the quest for publicity is a contributing factor to the sad sickness now infecting our land and schools and crowded gatherings.

One example is coverage of the tragic shooting at a Florida public school: NBC Nightly News published footage and photos of the predator 12 times the first night and during the following days repeatedly offered his image for public consumption, giving him immediate fame. Earlier, similar media advertisement happened at Las Vegas and at the South Carolina church and dozens of other tragedies scattered across the country.

I’m as curious as the next. I’d like to know whether the killer was white, black, brown or green — but do I really need to know? Do I really need to know his reasoning, exactly how he planned and followed through with his horrific acts? Do I need to know where he lived and what his neighbors thought of him, and repeatedly see his photograph and learn of his postings on Facebook?

When or where does the right to know end and the need to know begin? Where does the right to know versus concern for the greater good become balanced? Is there a point wherein more information only appeals to morbid curiosity and possibly encourages repetition?

In my opinion, the Fourth Estate should, by legislative action or other means, be prevented from publishing photographs and names of captured or dead terroristic act perpetrators. Those still at large should be advertised, because public disclosure may help with apprehension, but the captured or dead should disappear as disgraced, unknown, sterile dust.

Much of the media will disagree by saying: “The right to know is the oxygen of freedom and, furthermore, the story will be broadcast by social media.”

The rebuttal: The right to know mostly refers to democratic governments and the need of constituents to render judgment, based on knowledge. Second point: Most, especially the older generations, think social media is trash; social media has no validity and represents nothing more than hair salon or breakfast table gossip. You’ve only arrived when your name is published or image shown by the recognized and respected press.

Journalists, show some responsibility toward the greater good by focusing on the victims, their horror and suffering, not on the cause. Perhaps, if you do, someone who’s considering a similar act might reconsider. He might reconsider, if he realizes he’ll remain unadvertised and unknown.

Guns are not the only problem. Advertisement of the twisted, senseless, useless person and his acts also contributes to the plague.