‘People against gun control haven’t been shot at’

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The gun control debate in the United States is not going away.

On 24 March, thousands of people will descend on Washington DC demanding stricter laws around buying guns.

The protest follows a school shooting in Florida where 17 people were killed.

But in a country where there are nearly as many guns as people, not everyone wants stricter controls.

Newsbeat has spoken to four people with different connections to the gun debate to try to find out why there is such disagreement around owning guns in America.

‘I survived the Florida school shooting’

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Lewis Mizen

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Lewis is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Lewis Mizen is originally from Coventry and first moved to Parkland, Florida, nine years ago.

The 17-year-old is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and lost 17 classmates and teachers in the Valentine’s Day shooting there.

He says school shootings are one of America’s “biggest failings” but still supports the second amendment – that’s the right to “bear arms”, or own guns, outlined in the US constitution.

“I’m perfectly happy with people owning handguns to protect themselves,” Lewis says.

“I’m OK with them owning guns, I’m OK with them carrying guns in their car, I’m OK with them having it on them.

“It’s not the only country in the world where people own guns”, he says. “But it is the only country where it’s easier for me to buy a gun than it is to buy spray paint.”

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Flowers outside Majory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were shot dead

Lewis says some of his gun-owning friends have had their perspectives changed since the shooting at his high school.

“That shows that you can make change,” he says.

Lewis will be joining the march in Washington DC on Saturday as part of the Never Again campaign.

“A lot of the people who are sticking to their guns, saying they don’t want to see change, haven’t experienced anything like this.

“One of the reasons the movement has been successful so far is because we’re making people realise what it’s like to go through this.”

‘My sister was killed at Dunblane’

Andrew Ross, who’s 19, wasn’t even born when his sister Joanna, five, was killed by a gunman at Dunblane primary school near Stirling.

Families of those killed successfully campaigned for handguns to be banned in England, Scotland and Wales after the shooting, which killed 16 children and their teacher.

“I don’t remember anything because there was nothing to remember sadly,” Andrew told Newsbeat.

“For me it’s been a case of learning about her – what kind of kid she was, what personality she had and what she was into.”

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Andrew Ross

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Andrew’s sister Joanna was one of 17 killed by a gunman at Dunblane Primary in 1996

Andrew says he’d like to see a total ban on guns in America but believes it won’t happen “with the amount of people that defend guns over there”.

“Restrictions are a good place to start though. I reckon if they start bringing in a couple of rules, they can build on them and bring in a total ban further down the line”.

He also thinks President Trump’s suggestion of training school staff to handle guns would end up “making more of a problem”.

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Andrew Ross

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Andrew with his older sister Ali. He never got to know Joanna, who died before he was born

Andrew’s hoping to attend Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Edinburgh, set up in solidarity with the Never Again campaign.

His mum was involved in campaigning for gun laws to change in the UK – back then he says it was all about handing out flyers and petitions.

“It’s even more admirable in my opinion that it’s young people that are doing the campaigning [in America] and they’re not getting shut down by adults.”

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Media captionWTF: America’s obsession with guns isn’t going anywhere. Newsbeat explores why.

‘I believe in the right to defend my life’

Amanda Krp is 23-years-old and lives in Orlando, Florida.

She’s a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and believes the answer “is what our founding fathers figured out a long time ago – arm the people”.

Amanda hunts animals and tells Newsbeat she also enjoys practising her “marksmanship skills”.

Her dad’s a police officer and she says she was taught the responsible use of firearms from a young age.

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Amanda Krp

“Honestly, I wish there were no bad guys, no crime and no explosions in the world.

“But the reality is there are bad people, and there are criminals.

“Because of my dad’s profession, I have heard so many stories and witnessed first-hand the evil in the world.

“And because of that, I believe in the right to defend my life and my property,” she says.

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Amanda Krp

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Amanda on a recent hunting trip where she shot a turkey

Amanda believes future tragedies can be prevented by making sure “prohibited people”, such as those with mental health concerns, don’t have access to guns.

“So-called ‘assault weapons’ are the functional equivalent of millions of commonly held rifles used in hunting, competition, and sport shooting.

“They are no more lethal than other rifles,” she says.

‘I hunt with a gun to feed my family’

Caroline is 25 and from North Carolina. She’s a certified accountant but her favourite hobbies are hunting and fishing.

She got her first gun as a present from her parents when she was seven – a double-barrelled shotgun.

“If you grow up in a hunting family this is pretty normal,” she tells Newsbeat.

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Caroline Henry

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Caroline with her dad and a bear they killed, which weighed 297kg (655lbs)

Speaking to Newsbeat about the bear she killed above, Caroline said “it fed at least eight families, several times over”.

She also made a rug out of the hide.

“We have to manage our bear population on our land – if you let too many bears grow on your land it can become a problem for other wildlife, disease can spread, and it can become dangerous for us.”

Caroline isn’t a member of the NRA but doesn’t agree with the Never Again campaign, which wants stricter gun controls.

She agrees more background checks are needed but doesn’t think the government should raise the age of purchase to 21-years-old – a suggestion Donald Trump made and then went back on following a lack of support.

“I don’t think raising the age is going to fix anything.

“It’s the parents’ responsibility to secure their guns and to not store loaded guns, or bullets with the guns.

“It’s really precautions you take in the home that will help fix things – not necessarily the way you purchase guns.”

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Caroline Henry

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Caroline with her grandad and the bear they shot, which she says was nine years old and considered “old” for a bear

At the moment Caroline only uses guns for hunting. She says her family doesn’t tend to buy meat from the supermarket because they hunt what they want to eat.

But she has got a license to have a handgun if she wants to buy one for protection.

“We live in a very safe area so I don’t think it’s super necessary for me to carry one around or keep one by bed because I feel safe.”

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