This is how Central Florida neighbors feel about gun ownership

Protection, recreation are reasons to conceal carry, responsible gun owners say

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Nick Stack stores a small-scale personal armory of weapons at his rural Lake County home.

Dozens of firearms -- pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles, an AR-15, an AK-47 and several collector's items -- are locked in his 1,600 pound steel safe.

Stack said he is not a gun fanatic.

"I didn't start off saying I wanted a million guns," Stack said. "I liked a gun and I really enjoyed that gun and I liked to sit out and shoot and go hunting. The hunting is very peaceful to me. It's something where you get one and it builds upon itself. You want something with a little bit different action using in a little bit variety, and I ended up with multiple rifles." 

Stack, a criminal defense attorney based in Tavares, keeps several pistols for personal protection, and some are in his home secured with gunlocks.

"Locking guns, especially with young children, is very important if you have firearms in the house," Stack said. "My wife's probably a better shot than I am and my children have a very healthy respect. They know not to touch any of these."

Stack said his 7-year-old son has shot his .22-caliber rifle with close supervision.

"I shot guns as a young person, very young, 6 years old. My dad had me shoot a big shotgun," Stack said. "It knocked me back and gave me a very healthy respect for firearms."

Stack has several collector's items, including an engraved rifle for his son to use when he grows old enough to properly handle it.

He bought his wife an AR-15 as a gift.

And he stumbled upon a vintage Russian rifle.

"It's a Russian 776 used to invade Afghanistan, I believe, in the 80s," he said.

But Stack clearly understands and knows not everyone feels the way he and his family do about guns.

"I can see that someone would find this to be a lot of guns, however they all have specific uses and specific meaning to me, and I am very comfortable with these," Stack said. "I had an aunt here recently. She was very uncomfortable with guns. She does not think people should have them, and she did not want to see them when my uncle came out and wanted to hold them."

Despite his collection, Stack doesn't believe everyone should have the right to own a firearm.

"I believe people should be allowed to own firearms, however I don't believe they are for everyone," Stack said. "I think there are people with ideology that wouldn't make it safe for them to have it, or mental illness. So although I am a supporter of the Second Amendment I don't think it should be broad for everyone without some type of safeguards."

Feelings on gun ownership aren't necessarily defined by county or city boundaries in Central Florida. 

Just a few miles from the border of Lake County, gun owners and gun critics share the same streets of downtown Winter Garden in Orange County.

"I think it's bad to so easily obtain any guns at all in this country. Like, it's unnecessary that we can get them so easily," said one young woman walking down the sidewalk. "And they're dangerous and I don't think anyone really needs a gun -- any civilian, at least."

Minutes later, a bicycle rider said he has a concealed weapons permit and regularly carries a gun.

"I do have a concealed weapons permit. I'm not carrying one with me now but I do carry it fairly regularly when I'm out in situations where I feel like it might be worthwhile to have it," Don Lunko said. "I've had people involved in road rage around me. You just never know when someone else is going to pull one in anger towards you and I want to be able to protect myself if I need to."

Angela Register, of Seminole County, said she bought a gun to protect her and her family after a man started stalking her.

"A few years ago I had someone casing my house and, before that time, I didn't have much of an opinion on guns and then that happened," Register said. "And I told my husband, 'I want a gun and I want a gun now.' I have two babies at home, I've got to be able to protect myself."

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said his county has the most concealed weapons permits of all the counties in Florida.

"From what the tax collector has told me, we are the No. 1 county for issuing concealed weapons permits for the state of Florida," Staly said. "So that tells me that I have a community interested in being able to protect themselves and defend their loved ones and I'm all for that. My position on carrying concealed weapons is: The more, the merrier. In my county, I believe the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

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