These gun owners support stricter gun control for amazing reasons we all need to hear.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Dannison.

Nathan Dannison received his first firearm — a Browning bolt action .22 rifle — as a Christmas gift when he was 11 years old.

Now 34, he's owned guns consistently since and enjoys hunting and clay shooting. But he says the line gun owners are expected to toe when it comes to the national gun control debate is troubling.

"We've let the Hollywood cowboy wannabes take over the debate," he says. "We've let the NRA devolve from a conservation and education organization into something unrecognizable."


Dannison is part of a growing number of gun owners breaking from the stereotypical NRA-driven script and advocating for new, stricter, common-sense gun legislation.

Alexander Voorman, 34, believes that gun owners bear the greatest responsibility in this debate.

"I may personally like guns," he says, "but I also believe that everyone has the right to live safely and freely without one, and that those people are in no way culpable for the epidemic of gun violence in this country."

Photo courtesy of Alexander Voorman.

Voorman was raised in a strictly no-gun household, but says he was fascinated early on by guns and currently visits the shooting range as a hobby.  

South Carolinian Bill Ware, 59, owns a slew of firearms as a hobby as well: .20- and .12-gauge shotguns, rifles, several pistols, and an assortment of reproduction black powder guns.

Like Voorman, he's questioned the validity of ownership and his role in the debate while people are dying in mass shooting after mass shooting, especially those involving assault-style weapons. "I was having a crisis of conscience of sorts," Ware notes.

He, Voorman, and Dannison believe that gun owners must overcome the radical voices that have long dominated this conversation.

"The continued silence of much of the gun-owning populace in the face of shooting after shooting casts us in a horrifyingly bad light," Voorman says. "It makes us look callous and uncaring at best; complicit at worst."

It's not easy to advocate for limiting freedoms from within the gun community. Many believe any change would be a slippery slope to sweeping bans on all firearms or even the creation of a database of gun owners.

From Voorman's perspective, though, gun owners' resistance to regulation seems steeped in paranoia. He says they fear that overregulation due to the "ill-defined, just-in-case" scenario in which they might need a gun.

In this way, gun ownership becomes a comfort.

Katie Kirchner, 39, has been a gun owner since 2001, after someone knocked on the window of her rural home in the middle of the night. Though her gun provides her a sense of some security, she doesn't believe that makes gun reform a threat.

"The gun is not a need — it is a want," she says. "And at this point I am not even sure I want it any longer so as not to be lumped into the intolerant, gun-owning, chest-pumping, NRA-loving group."

Photo courtesy of Katie Kirchner.

With a third grader who tells her about the lockdown drills they do at school, Kirchner is even more troubled, saying, "I hate that she has to consider this even happening to her and her classmates."

Public safety, especially in schools, is perhaps the greatest motivator for this group pushing for tighter regulation.

There is a growing consensus that the NRA is a toxic, destabilizing force in U.S. politics.

Dannison points to profit's role in the gun reform debate:

"It's critical that people understand that a gun is a product with an indefinite shelf-life. This makes it very, very hard to run a profitable, growth-based industry around manufacturing guns. Imagine if cars never wore out. The car makers would go bust in a few years. This is what is motivating the gun lobby."

When it comes to weapons like AR-15s, the gun of choice in many of our mass shootings, Dannsion says they're kind of like a Lego set because of all of the little pieces, parts, and modifications a person can purchase. "It's a really deadly toy," he says wrly, "but you know how children get when you try to take away their toys."

These gun owners are ready to have real conversations about gun control.

They have progressive ideas about how to make changes that reduce gun violence and shootings and keep everyone — gun owners or not — safe. "The solution, or mere inspiration for actual progress, lies in finding the profit in regulation," Ware explains.

Photo courtesy of Bill Ware.

He believes that registering and insuring guns might be the key to motivating insurance companies to participate in the dialogue, much like the ways we regulate cars.

Kirchner says she would be glad to participate if reforms were to include screening current gun owners.

"I would be the first in line to see if I am capable of owning a gun," she says. "I have nothing to hide and sometimes wonder what the non-gun reform people do have to hide.”

No matter the outcome, Dannison, Kirchner, Voorman, and Ware agree that gun owners need to get involved in regulation advocacy right now.

"We are increasingly painting ourselves as a very dangerous and angry minority in America," Voorman says, "and it is my belief that if we want to continue to enjoy our freedom to bear arms, we must either give a little now — or give a lot later."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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