Opinion Op-Ed
Op-Ed

Two decades of mass shootings later, not much has changed in 'Gun Nation’

Twenty years ago, I traveled around the United States photographing the predominantly white, middle-class Americans who manufacture, sell and purchase guns in vast numbers.

Since then, mass shootings have become a common occurrence.

I decided to track down my original subjects and found that many of them are as fervent as ever about the “right to bear arms.”

Zed Nelson is a London-based photographer and the author of “Gun Nation.”


Mike Prindiville of Sylva, N.C., and his daughter Kaitlyn in 1996 and 2016

Zed Nelson

Some people see me as a right wing lunatic. But I’m just looking out for myself and my family.

Zed Nelson

“I see that original photograph as powerful, protecting… representing my freedom. Some people see me as a right wing lunatic. But I’m just looking out for myself and my family. …I think it is fantastic that certain school districts are training their teachers so they can carry a weapon in school. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Let natural selection take its course.”

—Mike Prindiville

“I’ve had parents of my friends wonder why I was OK with Dad pointing a gun in my face. And I told them, he wasn’t, his finger wasn’t even on the trigger. It was pointed in my direction, but not at me.… He’s not trying to harm me. He’s trying to protect me.… My views on guns aren’t the same as my father’s. I believe If you want a gun to protect your family, then do it. If you feel like you need it. But I don’t think the government trying to control guns is so bad.”

—Kaitlyn Prindiville


Michael Rallings in 1997, and in 2016. He was a sergeant and is now director of the Memphis Police Department

Zed Nelson

We don’t think that guns and alcohol mix well.

Zed Nelson

“Legislation [in Tennessee] has passed recently where people are allowed to carry a gun in their car, and a law that allows school staff to carry a gun on school property. And you are also now legally allowed to carry guns in bars. From a police chief’s perspective I would definitely say that I would prefer it if we did not have guns in bars. [In] my personal opinion it makes our job a little harder. We don’t think that guns and alcohol mix well.”


Sarah Read at her family’s gun store in Millington, Tenn., in 1997 and in 2016

Zed Nelson

Once we sell the gun it’s no longer our problem.

Zed Nelson

“Once we sell the gun it’s no longer our problem, because the person who buys it should know how to be responsible and not go do bad things with it. I guess you never know what people might do, but I don’t lose much sleep over it.”


Richard Mack at Soldier of Fortune convention in Las Vegas in 1996, and at home in Gilbert, Ariz., in 2016.

Zed Nelson

If you want to repeal the 2nd Amendment and push for gun control, the Founding Fathers [created] a legitimate lawful process for amending the Constitution.

Zed Nelson

“I am very religious and I believe in almighty God and I believe that freedom is a gift from him. In that original photograph I wanted to display the gun to show how much I am dedicated to the principles of liberty.… If you want to repeal the 2nd Amendment and push for gun control, the Founding Fathers [created] a legitimate lawful process for amending the Constitution. It has been amended 27 times in its 230-year history. You want to try and change it, go for it.”

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