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Atlantans Discuss Guns Control After the Orlando Nightclub Attack

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Early Sunday June 12, 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. With 49 dead and 51 injured and some still in critical condition, that attack qualifies as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.  But Americans disagree about the cause of the Orlando shootings and the best methods that can be used to prevent future attacks.

Has last Sunday’s massacre had any effect on public opinion on gun control? This week, The Huffington Post reported that 55 percent of Americans now support stricter gun control laws, compared to 48 percent pre-Orlando. Americans still differ in opinion on solutions, however, making it difficult for gun control legislation to be passed in Congress.

VOX wanted to hear from people in Atlanta to get their opinions on whether gun control was the problem. We were able to listen to voices on both sides of the issue.

“Everyone should have one [a gun], except crazy people,” an Atlanta security officer who preferred that his name not be used told VOX in response to a question about his opinion. The security guard, a gun owner himself, cited brainwashing by ISIS as the cause of the shooting Sunday. The solution? According to the officer, tighter background checks.  

“Crazy people do crazy things with firearms,” the officer stated, “because a normal person would not shoot up a nightclub.”

Another man interviewed told VOX it is not the government’s responsibility to take away firearms. Second Amendment rights, he said, are a freedom. People should still be able to purchase guns.

Many people interviewed who supported gun control said their opinion had not changed in light of the Orlando shootings because they were already influenced by earlier tragedies, including the 2012 attacks in Newtown, Connecticut, where a mentally ill man armed with the same kind of assault weapon used in Orlando killed several children and staff in an elementary school, and in Charleston, South Carolina, where an African-American church was attacked in 2015 by a white supremacist.

“If you think about it,” software developer John Ross Segui told VOX, “guns are toys. Millions of people are being killed because some gun collector wants to have or keep them.” No guns, Segui suggested, was the solution.

Another man who chose not to be identified disagreed, saying that only assault weapons, the main source of massacres, should be banned.

Kevin Williams offered a more moderate standpoint. “People should have the right to bear arms, but some politicians and others use the Second Amendment to excuse these mass shootings. For example, people go and buy assault rifles from pawn shops and that’s a bit extreme.”

According to Seguiy, “Why risk more lives if we could just take away the guns?”

Photo — by Jahleelah Shaheed/VOX staff — includes members of VOX Media Cafe, VOX’s three-week, immersive summer program for teens. A few spots are open for VMC in July; email Susan for details. 

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