Guns, immigration split opinions

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2016

By Henry Luzzatto


In the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history, there have been various responses on how to prevent similar attacks.

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Shoppers at the downtown Walmart and Farm Fresh shopping centers were asked their opinions Tuesday on multiple issues related to the recent tragedy, including Muslim immigration and gun control.

Omar Mir Saddique Mateen attacked Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, on Sunday, killing 49 people and injuring 53 more. During the attack, Mateen pledged allegiance to the radical Islamic group ISIS.

President Barack Obama referred to the attack as “an act of terror and an act of hate.” Authorities suspect that Mateen was motivated by homophobia and radical Islamic beliefs.

After the attack, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump reiterated his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants entering the country. The statement was controversial, garnering criticism from many. Though Mateen himself was not an immigrant, his parents came from Afghanistan more than 30 years ago.

Opinions on such a ban were divided.

“I think we should have a restriction, probably,” said Keith Jackson.

Tammy Barth agreed there should be a ban on Muslims coming to America.

“Not all Muslims are ISIS, but this gentleman, he claimed to be ISIS,” Barth said. “Obama doesn’t need to let all these Muslims or ISIS or bad people into the country in the first place.”

Mateen called 911 during his rampage and pledged allegiance to ISIS. However, authorities have so far found no evidence of his collusion with terrorist groups prior to the attack.

Other citizens of Suffolk disagree with banning Muslim immigrants, saying that it unnecessarily targets a large group of people. This echoes the sentiments of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who both decried Trump’s proposed ban.

Anna Fike, a counselor at Nansemond River High School, was among those who disagreed with the idea.

“Not all Muslims, in my opinion, are like that person,” Fike said. “We have Muslim students at our school, so I certainly wouldn’t group them all into one category.”

President Obama himself denounced the idea of banning Muslims from entering the country, saying the proposal “doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals.”

Gun control is another contentious issue the shooting brought into the public eye. Mateen legally obtained the AR-15 rifle and handgun he used in the attack, despite having been investigated by the FBI and temporarily put on a no-fly list. This resulted in many calling for stricter gun laws.

Some Democrats in the House of Representatives protested the lack of action on gun control by walking out of Congress during a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims.

Sandra Ruiz, who was campaigning for Ella Ward, was among those calling for increased gun control.

“These mass killings all over everywhere, they start with guns,” Ruiz said.

Ray Holland agreed, though he questioned the efficacy of new regulations.

“I would support more gun control,” he said. “But I feel like it won’t do much.”

However, opinions on this issue were divided, as many people in Suffolk are avid hunters and gun owners.

Eighteen-year-old Trenton Pridgen said he believes in his right to bear arms.

“I have guns, and I like them,” Pridgen said.

Robert Barth went one step further, saying that guns are necessary in the modern world.

“I think everybody should have a gun so you can shoot back,” Barth said. He added that, because he has guns, he is not worried about another attack.

Though opinions on what to do were divided, those interviewed were united in calling the attack an unspeakable tragedy.

“I just feel so saddened when I watched the news for those people down there,” Ruiz said. “I hate to even talk about it, really. It’s just sad.”