12 l.a. residents discuss gun control in america

Artists, ER doctors, and a volunteer sniper: hear the real voices in the gun control debate raging on every street corner of the United States.

by Grace Pickering
|
Aug 5 2016, 2:50pm

Name: Spanto
Age: 31
Occupation: Creator of Born X Raised 
L.A. neighborhood: Venice Beach
Do you own a gun?
Unfortunately yes I do, but not legally. I'm a convicted felon so I can't legally buy a gun. I bought my first gun off a friend when I was 15 and was arrested for possessing one when I was 18.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
I do think it's way too easy to obtain a firearm. I think it's gonna take another century or two before we can get back to a place where we can take the guns away. It's so ingrained in our society now, it's the wild wild west out here.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
America is built off of murder and gangsters, simple as that. But it's a difficult issue because I wish we didn't have to carry guns. The problem is, the moment they take them from us there's no control left for us, so I think we should keep guns legal for civilians. We need to be able to protect ourselves.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
I think the black market would completely flourish. Our relationship with guns is too connected now for them to disappear overnight.
Do you have any personal experiences with guns?
I've done time for carrying a weapon, I've been shot on three separate occasions. You would think that someone who has felt a lot of repercussions from firearms would be against them but I don't think we can unring the bell, it's too late. Even though all these horrible things have happened to me and my friends. It's never gonna be a case of, 'Let's just put the guns down.' Let's face it, eventually it's gonna be us against the government and when it is, I'm gonna be armed just like them. 

Name: Rosabelle Eales
Age: 24
Occupation: Artist manager/tour manager
L.A. neighborhood: Echo Park
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
No, I do not own a gun and I would never own a gun.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
I think that America would be different because I think it would be less fear-based. A lot of people who live here are afraid. They're afraid of their neighbors, they're afraid of the person on the street, they're afraid because in this country you can own a concealed weapon whether you own that weapon legally or not. In New Mexico when I first started driving, when it came to road rage it wasn't about honking or yelling at a car because you just didn't know if you could get a gun pulled on you.
Do you have any personal experiences with guns?
About a year and a half ago, my mom actually took her own life by a gun. She was in a legal suit with an insurance agency because my family's home had flooded. The insurance agency had said we had coverage for it when the house became no longer habitable. My mom sought restitution for losing her home and the insurance agency turned around and said, 'We're not responsible for this.' So she found herself in a massive legal suit that she put all of her energy, time, and money into and then lost the suit. The day she lost the case she got in the car, drove to a pawn shop, and purchased a gun. She then drove to a gun store and got a pack of ammunition and very shortly after she killed herself. Keep in mind, she was someone who suffered with depression who had a lot of inner demons, but the reality was this was a feasible solution for her. You can say what you want about that, like, is that cowardly? Yes, of course. Was that the right thing to do? Not at all. But the reality is, if there had been some sort of steps that she had had to go through, it might have set off some red flags. But because nobody asked any questions she just fucking went and bought the gun and the ammunition and was seemingly a nice older woman who wanted to protect herself. I think that was the most upsetting thing to me: nobody asked any questions. 

Name: Big Chris
Age: 67
Occupation: Currently unemployed
L.A. neighborhood: Venice Beach
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
No.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
I think we need to have gun control. There are a lot of shootings and a lot of killings. A lot of innocent people get killed. It's a real problem in America.
Do you have any personal experiences with guns?
I had a nephew who was shot and killed. Most of the people who die here are kids and innocent people, it's bad.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
I think that's alright but it really depends on what the situation is. For example ISIS and other terrorist groups that threaten us, if you're in a situation like that you should be able to have a gun and protect yourself and your own.
How is gun control linked to the current crisis with U.S. law enforcement?
It looks bad on the police 'cause they've been shooting a lot of blacks and kids and stuff and in the end if you shoot at people and you kill members of a community, it doesn't matter if you're Latino, black, from wherever, if you shoot at people they will retaliate.
Is America great?
I think Obama did a great job. The politics going on now with the election coming up are crazy. I've never seen anything like it really, Hillary and Trump. But America is my home and it's been good to me
What do you want for America's future?
I want the people to be taken better care of. Take care of the homeless and your citizens, provide better schooling for the kids and more jobs for the people, look out for the veterans and take care of the homeland. 

Name: Greg Moron
Age: 45
Occupation: Chief of Emergency Dept., Olive View UCLA Medical Center
L.A. neighborhood: Glendale
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
I would not own a gun except maybe if the zombie apocalypse happens.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
We could substantially beef them up. There are some reasonable gun control measures that could be taken that we have not taken and we could safely do that and still protect the rights of legitimate gun users.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
I think too many people ignore the first part of the Second Amendment and don't remember that the words 'well regulated' were in there. So it is written in the constitution that they should be well regulated.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
I don't know that it would be a huge, dramatic change but I think we could make some incremental reduction in gun deaths. We would get even further in terms of reducing gun deaths with just some education and some common sense, telling people how to safely store their guns, how to keep them away from children, and how to keep them away from people who are depressed or suicidal. Because, if you look at the numbers, that is a large volume of the gun deaths in the United States.
How is gun control linked to the current crisis with U.S. law enforcement?
I think the police rightly feel endangered and threatened just because there are so many guns out there and the truth is their lives are in danger every single day. So I can understand their need to be safe and protect themselves. By far, the vast majority of cops do that and do it reasonably. I see the situation as comparable to essentially any other profession where some are better than others. Some doctors are better than others, some cops are better than others.
*Views expressed are the doctor's own, he does not speak for the UCLA Medical Center.

Name: Jon DeCarlo
Age: 23
Occupation: Postmates/aspiring musician
L.A. neighborhood: Skid Row
Do you own a gun? 
Yes, I own three guns right now. A rifle and two handguns.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
I think California is actually pretty sensible. I think there should probably be more restriction in terms of who is able to own guns but I think there should also be less restriction in what you can and cannot do with your gun if you are legally able to own it.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
Do I think it is a necessity in today's day and age? Absolutely not, I don't think anybody needs to own a gun today. I think certainly owning a gun in 2016 is more of a novelty than it was in the 1800s, but I do also think there is something historical and fundamentally American about the ability to own a gun and being able to protect yourself independently from law enforcement, from military, and the feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with owning a gun.
How is gun control linked to the current crisis with U.S. law enforcement?
I think these issues revolve more around racial prejudice within the police force.
Is America great?
I think America is absolutely great. Our government goes through times of change and times of 'not greatness' but I think as a fundamental ideology it is. People argue that the founding of America is rooted in bigotry and I'm not disagreeing with that, but I think the principal ideals of a place that is a free nation, a new nation where every man is able to stand independently and on his own is a beautiful idea. 

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Name: Robert Howard
Age: 35
Occupation: Facilitator
L.A. neighborhood: Inglewood
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
I used to own a gun but I don't currently.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
I don't believe that the original authors of that were envisioning the world that we live in today. I think that the purpose was to protect this land and protect my family and myself from invaders. So in context, I don't think we have that issue now in the same way. I think we're dealing with another paradigm.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
If we got states on the same page and there was a bit more of a background check and a process to apply and receive a gun, similar to getting a driver's license — if that were the case I think we would have a different climate in America.
How is gun control linked to the current crisis with U.S. law enforcement?
If I walk down the street right now in a state that has open carry looking like myself as an African-American adult male, that's going to make someone uncomfortable in a way that someone else in an open carry state of a different identity does not evoke that same response. When a police officer sees an African-American based on statistics and on personal experiences and on stereotypes, having a gun or assuming they have a gun is a big part of the problem. So having guns, whether it is legally or illegally, affects the interactions between police and people.
Do you have any personal experiences with guns or anything you'd like to add?
I have a 9-year-old son! I'm African-American, my father's African-American, my son is African-American. My dad was born in 1925, he was a police officer and he was in World War II. So the idea of stereotypes is something that resonates a lot with me. I teach my son to not stereotype, to look beyond and be critical. I also tell him very carefully that you need to respect authority, the elders in your community, your teachers, whoever is taking care of you, your team, your coach. I teach him if something is unfair to you, you can have dignity and walk away and try to solve it with a parent, a teacher, a lawyer, but don't fight in the moment with someone who is disrespecting your humanity and who is devaluing you as a person, who distrusts you or disregards your freedom. You can maintain your dignity and fight for yourself later, and not just in a reactionary way. It's hard to do that and not react in the moment, but it's probably very hard to do that as a cop too.

Name: Brett Candace
Age: 28
Occupation: Artist
L.A. neighborhood: Sun Valley
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
I don't own a gun. I was raised in a family with guns around, my stepdad had a few.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
It's easier to get a gun than it is to buy alcohol or cigarettes if you're a minor. A car is like two tons of steel that in some situations can kill people, and because of that we are required to take classes, undergo testing, and learn how to drive them accurately. I don't think we really need guns in our day-to-day lives, and yet you can buy one at a gun show quite easily without needing any training or certification and you pretty much can do whatever you want with it after you buy it! I think it needs to be harder for people with mental health issues to get hold of a gun and easier for them to have treatment, which is a whole other issue.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
If someone really wants to get a gun it's just like if someone wants to get illicit drugs: they will find a way. So I don't really know how well stricter gun control laws are going to help good people who have no ill intention with a weapon. I don't think that's the problem. I think the problem in America is social issues. There needs to be proper intensive training for people who want to shoot guns and somewhere to go do just that and shoot, keep it contained and have a community there who trust and empathize with each other instead of this fear and privacy.
Is America great?
It has a great skeleton. If America was a person, I would be friends with them but I wouldn't date them. 

Name: Dr. Alex Kopelowicz
Age: 54
Occupation: Chief of Psychiatry at Olive View, UCLA Medical Center
L.A. neighborhood: Beverly Glen
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
No and no.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
They're virtually non-existent, we emphasize much more the right to bear arms and we minimize the need for there being gun control laws.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
We would have a lot less lethal violence. Most other countries that don't have that free access to guns and ammunition have far lower murder rates and other types of related accidents. My suspicion would be there would be a lot less of the violence that we see now.
How is gun control linked to the current crisis with U.S. law enforcement?
It's a little complicated. It's not a direct correlation, but I do believe people's access to weapons and the police's knowledge that folks have that access to weapons makes everything much more of an intense experience. If the entire nation had far fewer weapons, we would probably see a calming down from both sides, both the police and the people they encounter.
Is America great?
Is there any place I'd rather live? No.
*Views expressed are the doctor's own, he does not speak for the UCLA Medical Center.

Name: Robbie Cavolina
Age: 52
Occupation: Artist
L.A. neighborhood: Mid-City
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
I don't own a gun, but I would if I were a hunter.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
It's a joke. They're suited to the wealthy and the NRA, who are protecting the interests of what they call the Second Amendment, but it's really for manufacturing and proliferation of arms and it's madness. There's no explanation for why America needs the amount of guns that we have, why machine guns and military arms need to be on our streets. It's destroying our country and it's making me feel like I want to get the fuck out of here.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
Would I feel safer if there weren't guns? Yeah, I would feel a lot safer. I've had four drive-bys here at my home. My house has been shot at over 200 times and I have some of the bullets here in my hand and the holes in my walls to prove it. But I also live in gangland and I don't know if the gun laws would help keep guns out of those people's hands.

Name: JC Goetz
Age: 37
Occupation: International tax consultant/actor/former sniper for Project Child Save
L.A. neighborhood: Downtown
Do you own a gun? 
Yes, I have access to firearms.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
They've proven futile. My take is you can't solve problems with more laws — that's the opposite of liberty. Liberty is less restrictive government. People should be able to chose for themselves whether they want to carry or not.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
It's sacrosanct: there are no if, ands, or buts about it. If you read The Federalist Papers it's pretty clear what the Second Amendment meant. People always say, 'The Second Amendment was written for muskets.' If that's the case then the First Amendment was written for quill and ink. You can't have it both ways, either across the board you apply the same logic or you don't.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
Violent crime would go up, it would skyrocket. What people don't realize is that if you have to put your life up as collateral, it's going to regulate your behavior. You know who you don't mess with? A guy you know has a gun or the guy who may have a gun.
What do you want for America's future?
Get rid of the federal income tax. The progressive tax system is the biggest theft of fruits of people's labor in the history of mankind. If you look at the 16th Amendment, when it was ratified in 1913 it was done so that tax on the rich would never go over 10%. Tax on the poor is above 10%! But only rich people are politicians so why would they vote for laws that are going to take all their money? It doesn't make any sense, It's all about control just like gun control. I live by a very simple tenet; stay out of my gun safe, stay out of my bank account, and stay out of my bedroom.

Name: Hobbes Ginsberg (left)
Age: 22
Occupation: Photographer
Name: Chloe Feller (right)
Age: 20
Occupation: Filmmaker
L.A. neighborhood: Koreatown
Do you own a gun? Would you ever?
Chloe and Hobbes: No and no.
What is your take on current American gun control laws?
Chloe: We're definitely really lenient and access to powerful weapons is far too easy and they're far too accessible. I think it's very easy to get a gun legally but it's really easy to get a gun illegally in America too. You can get types of weapons that may not necessarily be legal and easy to get over a literal counter. People always seem to find loopholes and find access to types of weapons that are restricted to your average everyday person and in that way I think laws are failing people.
What do you think about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?
Hobbes: It's outdated. What it meant at the time was that within a wartime or a revolutionary time citizens would have the right to protect themselves, which is a fine principle in and of itself, but the amendment doesn't mean that every citizen has a right to whatever gun they want in any capacity they want at any time that they want. The Second Amendment is used now as a way for people who are pro guns to rationalize it to themselves.
How is gun control linked to the current crisis with U.S. law enforcement?
Chloe: Oh, incredibly!
Hobbes: It's a culture problem. I don't know how much the legislation around actual gun control is linked. It's more the reason gun control laws aren't being changed is because Americans love guns and cops love guns and do whatever they want with them.
Chloe: During a domestic violence incident next door I called the police about, the cops that came were ready to kick the door down and were so amped, laughing, joking, and shooting the shit with each other. They were calling in a ram to knock the door in before the landlord could even arrive with the keys. With that in mind, how we're seeing police brutality unfold, it's like we have this idea instilled in us from when we're younger that the police have a lot of training and there are all these intrinsic values there but you get older and realize, these are just some dudes who are affected by American culture just as much as we are. Affected by as much of the privilege and the racism and all these abrasive oppressive 'isms. A lot of people join the force for the wrong reasons, because they want this high-action type of environment. I wouldn't trust even half of law enforcement with guns.

Related: Hobbes Ginsberg Makes Technicolor Dream Selfies 

Credits


Photography Grace Pickering

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