The Gun Owners of the Parkland Generation
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The Backstory | The Backstory | Episode 7
The Gun Owners of the Parkland Generation
The story behind the photographer Sharif Hamza’s portraits of young Americans with their firearms.
Read the story.
Released on 03/19/2018
I think that for those
who have no relationship to guns, like I had,
they would discover that, like anything,
it's just about getting used to it.
And the question is
what are we comfortable with getting used to?
(soft music)
So the subject of guns is obviously
a provocative, sensitive topic.
The side that pro-gun control
often only talk to each other
and have likely never met a gun owner.
And that's certainly who I was
before I set about this project.
Growing up in the U.K.,
guns just weren't part of conversation.
(soft music)
I can't think of another advanced country in the world
where you would find so many young people
with access to guns.
It's an obsession.
It's part of the fabric of American life.
(soft music)
These pictures are a reflection of that.
We spent 18 months.
We traveled all over the country
from an hour outside of New York
to Texas, Montana, Ohio, Missouri, Florida.
We tracked down kids who were in the top ten shooters
in their state.
(soft music)
In different categories of firearms.
(soft music)
Every time I took a picture of someone,
their gun could never be loaded.
It could never be pointed at me.
It had to either be pointed in the air or at the ground.
Often they had to have safety caps
or zip ties around the triggers.
And the real eye opener was that it's all very mainstream.
(soft music)
During the research period for this project
I became a father for the first time to a girl
and (brief pause)
seeing young women shooting guns
and how they interact with their fathers
became something very interesting for me.
One of the most interesting young women was Katie Francis.
Katie takes part in a shooting competition called 3-Gun.
Everyone is required to shoot a handgun,
a shotgun, and a rifle, which is an AR-15.
And she handles all three guns with a level of skill
that I would have only expect to have seen
someone in the military possess.
There's something alarming about seeing someone so young
have such capabilities
and alarming about seeing her father encourage those things,
yet there's also something wonderful
about seeing the bond that she has with her father.
It's often the duty of photographers
to break stereotypes with their work.
It's human nature to enjoy looking at a photograph
of a healthy child or teenager smiling
and feeling great about who they are
and having confidence in something that they're good at.
But at the same time, this teenager's holding a gun.
There are two very interesting sides
to every portrait in this project
that I think can provoke people in many different ways.
Were I shooting 30 years ago,
I would've chosen a subculture like skateboarding,
high school football or even graffiti.
It's a culture and a growing community
that are being marketed to.
There's an enormous amount of promotion and support,
which leads to more interest and growth.
Even though this country
has had access to guns for a long time,
I don't know if it's ever been at a point
where it's normalizing so quickly
and embedding itself
in not just American culture
but particularly youth culture.
(soft music)
I strongly believe that American gun owners
are never gonna give up their guns.
It's just not possible.
There are too many legally owned guns out there.
In this project,
I have photographs of 250 young Americans
who will be the responsible gun owners of the future.
It's about young Americans getting together
on both sides of that argument
and just simply having a discussion.
But that discussion has to change
because it's certainly not happening now.
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