Student Gun Owners Share Reactions After Florida Shooting

By Sierra Fang-Horvath, Print Editor-in-Chief

// With ongoing debate swirling as to how the United States should address its epidemic of mass shootings, many have turned their attention to backing comprehensive gun control. Advocates of stronger background checks and firearm ownership bans for certain people have cited the fact that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had clear warnings signs of mental instability and desire to kill, legally acquired his weapons before opening fire and taking the lives of 17 students and staff members.

   Although the shooting took place more than 3,000 miles away, the debate surrounding gun control has stretched to all corners of the country, with the Acalanes and greater Lafayette community being no exception. As an area where hunting and gun-ownership are popular, Lamorinda has faced conflicting views over how to react to the massacre. Even within the gun-owning or shooting-experienced sector of the population, feelings are torn over the best course of action. Blueprint sat down with four Acalanes students who either live in a household that owns guns or have had experience shooting. This is how they feel after Parkland.

Percy Haines, Junior

BP: Can you first explain your relationship with guns to me?

PH: My dad’s a hunter, so I’ve been around guns for pretty much like six years or more. I started shooting when I was about 11, in sixth grade, and my dad would take me and my sister to the range just to learn how to protect ourselves and the basics of how to handle a gun, the safety, and what the responsibilities are that you have to deal with. When I was in seventh grade, I became a junior sharp-shooter for the local range that we belong to. We used a simple .22 rifle with iron sights. I was pretty good at it.

BP: Where does your dad hunt? And what sort of checkpoints did he have to go through to get his guns?

PH: He lives in Fairfield, so he hunts around there and belongs to some gun clubs. You need a permit for your guns, you have to wait to be registered, and you have to take a test. Especially for hunters, the test is very long and hard.

BP: In your opinion, was that system sufficient enough to ensure gun safety?

PH: Yes, I believe so because you can’t just be anyone and take the test. You do have to study for it and it’s at least 100 questions. And all the questions are about gun safety.

BP: Does he take any precautions with his firearms?

PH: He has his own gun safe, which he’s very careful about. It’s always locked up and tucked away. We never have random weapons lying around the house. It’s all very controlled and safe.

BP: Are you still involved with guns mainly for self-defense purposes or for fun?

PH: It’s a little bit of both. It’s nice to remind myself that, okay, if I was in a situation that I needed to defend myself in, I would know how it’s done. It’s nice to know that if I was around someone with a gun, I would know how to disassemble it and make it safe. Practicing safely on the range is also a stress-reliever, though. It’s pretty therapeutic.

BP: What was your reaction after hearing about the Parkland shooting?

PH: I just thought to myself, “Not again. This is horrible.” There was just the Las Vegas shooting not that long ago. I mean, where is our country going? It’s getting way out of control. As a person who has guns and has dealt with guns, I’m at a loss. Who do I side with? It’s really confusing.

BP: In your opinion, what is the best course of action for our country to take to reduce the amount of deaths in mass shootings?

PH: We can’t just ban all guns because let’s remember Prohibition in the 20th century and how that turned out. There will always be a way for people to get guns and it will become even more of a problem. We have to get better on our gun control laws. We have to make the tests more difficult and make sure that not just anyone can get a gun. We have to make sure that they are all registered and that people have background checks and are clearly stable to handle a gun. I think people who have any sort of mental health problem should automatically not have a gun and not even be tested for getting a gun. I don’t think it’s worth that risk.

Zach Varela, Senior


Feature-Gun Q&A- Zach Varela.jpg

Courtesy Zach Varela


BP: Can you first explain your relationship with guns to me?

ZV: My best friend Thomas Hunt’s father was an FBI SWAT agent so I just grew up kind of admiring that profession. That was always my dream career, and being around firearms was part of the gig. I grew to love hunting, shooting, the general mechanics of firearms… just guns in general.

BP: Do you have guns in your house? If yes, what do you do with them?

ZV: Yes. Mainly bolt-action rifles. It’s mainly target shooting and you could call it small game, like squirrel and varmints.

BP: How did you initially react after hearing about the Parkland shooting?

ZV: My thought was just, “Another one?” This is becoming all-too-common, unfortunately. I honestly didn’t think about it too much at first, as bad as that sounds, because the initial reports only read like two casualties. But as the story continued to develop it started to resonate more with me.

BP: In your mind, how should our country address the mass shooting issue?

ZV: I really think—and people are going to get upset when I say it’s a mental health issue—that law enforcement and communities as a whole don’t do enough. Of course, there’s hindsight bias, but I don’t think we’re doing good enough of a job of reading between the lines. Also, arming teachers isn’t necessarily the worst idea. I mean, we have metal detectors and armed guards surrounding our entertainment and travel facilities, when the thing we should be trying to protect the most is the youth of our country. I think there are other more effective things we could do to prevent gun homicides and mass shootings other than ban assault-style weapons.

BP: Are you ever scared to come to school out of fear of a school shooting?

ZV: Not at all. Looking at the statistics, it’s like being afraid to drive to work. In my opinion, I think it’s a very unreasonable fear, especially in the community we are in. I don’t want to say it’s overblown by the media because it is such a big problem, but the chances of any school having a mass shooting are very small.

Thomas Hunt, Senior



By Sierra Fang-Horvath


BP: Can you first explain your relationship with guns to me?

TH: My dad was an FBI agent, so it was his job to carry a pistol to work every day. It was something that I grew up around, so I became fairly comfortable with it. While he would try to keep it in a gun safe as much as he could, sometimes it would be sitting on the kitchen countertop. One thing that my dad did that I’ve always really appreciated was he always made it very clear that the gun was not a toy. He said, “If you want to touch it or learn more about it, you come talk to me, but otherwise this is not something you should ever, ever hold.” I’m lucky because I got that education at a fairly young age. And with his experience in the FBI, he was really taught how to handle a firearm properly and how to be as safe with it as possible.

BP: How did you initially react after hearing about the Parkland shootings?

TH: It certainly is a tragedy. There’s always that feeling of, “Another one?”

BP: What, in your mind, is the best way for our country to prevent more of these mass shootings?

TH: I think the fact is that these mass school shootings are similar in nature. A lot of times, probably the majority of the time, they are committed with assault-style weapons. That lends itself to the fact that these assault-style weapons may not be the sole cause of such killings, but they are what allows people take so many lives. I’ve grown up being comfortable around guns, but at this point, I fully advocate for banning all of what I consider assault-style weapons, especially the M-4 and M-16 platforms. And even my dad, with his extensive history with firearms, would probably be at a similar place.

BP: What is your reaction to the “it’s a mental health issue” argument?

TH: Assault-style weapons have become the norm for these mass shootings, and while yes, the shootings often have to do with mental health, I don’t think that’s the part that we need to be focusing on. The key here is that it’s not the people, it’s the weapon that they’re using. They have the ability to kill so many people. Yes, we need to take notice of when people are showing signs of mental instability. However, I believe that as long as they have the tools to do something like he did in Florida, the problem lies in that. As a country and as a people, we need to focus on these mass shootings because it is such a problem that all we think now is, “Another one.”

Jeff Dible, Senior



By Elina Rasmussen


BP: Can you first explain your relationship with guns to me?

JD: Guns have been an integral part of my family. My dad grew up in the Midwest with a lot of guns and hunting. He used to hunt pheasant a lot with his brothers and dad. My family has accumulated quite a few guns. Some of them are pretty old but some are just from purchasing them over the years.

BP: What kinds of guns do you use and what are they for?

JD: They are mainly hunting rifles, like bolt-action rifles, pump-action shotguns, and a wide variety of handguns. It’s mostly for target shooting, but every once in a blue moon we’ll go to the shooting range and pull out some of the handguns or maybe go skeet shooting.

BP: How did you initially react after hearing about the Parkland shootings?

JD: The unfortunate reality is that these shootings seem to be happening on such a regular basis that it seems like we’re becoming numb to it, which is terrible. We shouldn’t be numb to it when 17 people are dead, some of the kids our age.

BP: What do you believe, if anything, should be done after the Parkland shooting to ensure that these mass murders don’t happen again?

JD: I do believe that there needs to be gun reform, but I’ve heard a couple of people after the Florida shooting saying, “We need to ban all assault-style weapons, like anything with M-16 or M-4 platforms. You need to take them off the streets.” In my personal opinion, I do believe that something needs to be done but that’s not the right move, just because rifles only cover two percent of gun homicides, and that’s not even for assault-style weapon homicides, which is far less. If you make them illegal, I don’t think it’s going to do much because the vast majority of homicides come from handguns because they’re easily concealable.

BP: Do you think there should be reform of the background check process?

JD: How you legally purchase a firearm right now is you have a background check which takes something like two weeks, and if you’re all clear and you check out, then they give you the weapon and the transaction is complete. I believe there should be period background checks because the kid Nikolas Cruz was posting very disturbing things on social media, like of him mutilating a frog, which is a very common tendency among sociopaths. If there had been periodic checks for this kid, maybe we could’ve taken the weapons out of his hands.

BP: Is that more disturbing in your mind that hunters who pose with their dead game after killing it?

JD: It’s the fact that he just mutilated that frog. There’s a fine line between hunting game, like shooting a deer or a boar, versus posting pictures of mutilated animals. Plus there were also other signs on social media that he was violent, like his comments on YouTube that he wanted to “become a professional school shooter.”

BP: How would you encourage your classmates to deal with behavior that they might construe as signs of a potential school shooter?

JD: There were a lot of signs that Nikolas Cruz had a lot of major mental health problems. Kids even joked that he was going to shoot up a school, and he did. So if there’s ever a student who’s posting disturbing social media posts or has extraordinarily disturbing behavior, report it to police or a teacher or anyone because there’s always that chance. You never know.

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