Packing Heat: Should Photographers Carry a Gun on the Job?

Packing Heat: Should Photographers Carry a Gun on the Job?

It's an unavoidable topic in American conversations. In the photography world, it seems to pop up on the forums and Facebook groups often enough to warrant further consideration: guns. Not necessarily in the heated, political debate sense, but to ask this question: In a world where carrying a concealed weapon has become more normalized and photographers spend more time in remote and urban locations, do firearms have a place in your business?

Kellie Saunders, a wedding photographer in Birmingham, Michigan, knows a thing or two about gun safety and operating on the streets. Before becoming a full-time photographer, Saunders spent six years as a police officer in Detroit.

Originally, I studied journalism and worked with commercial photographers and publishers prior to becoming a Detroit police officer," Saunders said. “When I decided to get married and start a family, I wanted a job that was flexible and offered stable hours. I couldn't find that in the private sector, so starting a business with my camera was a natural and easy transition.”

Saunders still does most of her work in Detroit as a photographer. But unlike her time spent in a squad car, she mostly leaves the gun at home these days.

“I am a firearms lover. Let's get that out of the way right now," she said. "I am all for private citizens having the right to carry firearms if they so desire. With that said, with a firearm comes great responsibility."

So, carrying a gun while she's out making portraits isn't in her plans.

“How can I photograph clients and be in a creative headspace while at the same time be legitimately prepared for a battle with a criminal?" Saunders asked. "If someone were to jump out of the bushes, let's say, their weapon is already out and ready. Time is of the essence, so think about it. By the time I can put my camera down and draw my weapon, either I or my clients could be hurt or killed.”

Saunders said that most Concealed Pistol License holders aren’t tactically trained, so drawing a weapon when out on an engagement session or other job might do more harm than good.

“Not everyone understands how a real life firefight could go down. I do, and that's why I choose to keep my weapon at home when I'm with clients," she said.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a 12-year licensed concealed pistol carrier and active auxiliary police officer who is also an established wedding and event photographer in a major metropolitan area. He was granted anonymity for the sake of his business, as it might be affected by this article.

There are lunatics everywhere. Who says giving up your stuff will protect you? That may work sometimes but not always. Sometimes, lunatics are into random violence, not just robbery,” said the photographer, who disclosed that carrying is a personal choice for him and that he doesn’t disclose it to clients.

“Responsible gun owners don't tell people they are carrying. One, many people aren't comfortable with it, so there's no point. Two, it isn't something to brag about. It is for protection against bad people,” he added.

The photographer said he began carrying on the job out of general concern for his safety while hauling gear around jobs in the city.

“I think I've been carrying around 10-12 years, not sure precisely," he said. "I was worried about crime and thought it was a good idea."

When asked for comment, National Rifle Association Spokesperson Lars Dalseide said: “Whether at home, on the job, or in the field, the NRA supports every law-abiding gun owner’s choice to safely and responsibly exercise their Second Amendment rights." He elaborated: "The right to carry was only available in a handful of states in 1991 while violent crime was at an all-time high. By 2015, more than 40 states had adopted right-to-carry laws, and the violent crime rate had dropped 51 percent. Should all the credit go to the new right-to-carry laws? No, not all. But criminals are less likely to attack targets who might be armed."

New stories of photographers being robbed or mugged aren’t unheard of, so it's no surprise that many people consider a concealed weapon as a precaution. On the other hand, statistics tend to find that guns are used far more often for killing than self-defense. But if guns aren't for you - for whatever reason - Saunders says vigilance and some streets smarts are most likely enough to keep you safe.

“I photograph in Detroit almost every week, and I love my city. I've never had a problem,” she said. “My advice is to always be aware of your surroundings. Know the areas you are working in. Don't trespass. Don't take your clients to abandoned buildings. Work in well-lit, well-traveled areas. If you see someone down the street approaching you on an 85-degree day with his hands in his pockets, wearing a thick jacket, and looking around, get in your car and leave.”

It should be noted that in many states, concealed weapons are not permitted inside of churches or synagogues, nor are they allowed in places of gathering that exceed set capacities. If you're a wedding or lifestyle photographer who carries or is considering carrying a gun, make sure to check the regulations of the state you work in first.

Where do you stand? Is having a concealed weapon with you on a shoot something you’d consider? Do you already carry? Should your clients know about it? Let us know in the comments.


Adam Sparkes's picture

Adam is the Assistant Director of Photography at Central Michigan University. He has been pushing a button for a living since 2009 and for that entire time constantly finds himself correcting people who pronounce it "fur-tographer".

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I CC every day, that's not going to change when I have 4k worth of gear on my neck. I always have my CC my flashlight and my skeletool. The later two I use every single day and I hope to never use the CC. I view it like my emergency kit in my car, I hope to never have to use it, but I know what's in it and how to use it.

Downvotes just because you own and carry a gun? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Apparently. lol

I do have some bear spray but it needs replaced. Thanks for the reminder.

Gotta love that Murican arrogance. Everyone else disagrees with you, so it must be that they've all been conditioned to maintain an irrational position. Yeah. That'd be it. God Bless you all for being the beacon of rationality in our lost world.


Am I anti-gun? Not really...
Would I have a gun if it was legal in my country? Sure.
Do I like the fact that they are not legal? Hell, yeah!
I feel so much safer knowing that not every idiot can carry a gun.

Comparing a gun to a car is really (sorry to use the word) stupid. A cars main purpose is to carry someone/something from one place to another.
Could it be abused to hurt/kill people?
Sure. As a Fork/Stiletto/Hammer/Camera/Tripod could be...

A guns single use is to threaten/hurt/kill. Simple fact as you put it. Security trough guns is bullshit.

I think photography is an art form and guns have no business being with you while taking photos.

If you are taking photos on a safari or in a wildlife scenery...thats probably different but I guess the topics question is regarding to safety against people.

It has nothing to do with irrational fear but with simple logic. Wild Wild West times are over and yes guns a cool and stuff and people like to own them but just admit that you own guns because you like them, not because you need protection.

I am glad you have never needed one.

I definitely own guns for protection, but they happen to be cool.

An irrational fear of something the sole purpose of which is to kill or maim?

sry but I can't let this stand there.... you are actually saying that we are living FREE because of guns?!?!? well that's where you are SO wrong! We are living free, because of freedom of speech, our humanity and seeing others as equals. I'm not living free, because I have a gun.. and I have one...

One big difference is that a cars primary purpose is transport while a guns primary purpose is to kill. Also, with a car you have to do lessons and pass a state test on you ability to use the car. What lessons and test do you have to do before you can own a gun?

How many Americans were killed by car last year, and how many by gun? Nobody drives a car with the intent to kill. But if you are carrying a gun to defend yourself then you do intent to kill. If not, then there is no point in carrying a gun.

And yes you can do harm with a car. To drive a car you need training. What training do most people have before they can carry a gun? How many more people would be killed by car if the licensing laws were the same as for guns?

You are rather focused on other items been use for harm. Yes, could even use a bread roll for harm. But a guns only purpose is to wound or kill. You can buy an assault rifle in the US. What purpose does an assault rifle have other than to kill?

You're wrong John. I carry with intent to stop.

In order to do so effectively one would be inclined to make contact with their target and increase their odds of doing so. This is accomplished by aiming for the largest target possible; this is called 'center mass', which happens to contain many vital organs.

It is actually law here in the States that punish those who act otherwise. You may only defend "Life & Limb" and if the threat is no longer a threat, then you no longer have the right to use force. It is not the wild west here, you cannot shoot someone free of scrutiny or investigation.

A man defended against an intruder. Shooting him once with a shotgun upon entry and immediately dropped the intruder to the ground. All good. A moment later, the man proceeded to walk up to the incapacitated intruder and shoot a second time at point blank range; effectively executing him. The defender is now a murderer and suffered the consequences for doing so.

Peter, you are very confused. We know that anything can be used to harm anyone. But the sole purpose of a gun is to kill people. I don't see how you are completely missing this one essential element in this discussion.

Guns are a right. Cars are a privilege.

No license is required, however you must pass a background check to purchase; verifying you are not a criminal.

Carry laws vary state to state, most require a license to carry concealed which requires an approved safety course. Some states have no requirement for open carry; so anyone (besides criminals) can buy a gun and strap it to their hip wild-west style....privately owned places may legally demand you leave, but otherwise no one can say a word.

Kim, it is an irrational fear considering most who fear them do so out of ignorance. I had an irrational fear of them. I was ignorant then. Now I own some. Now I have a respect for them.

The sole purpose of a firearm is NOT to kill or maim. I enjoy recreational shooting as a sport. Some like golf, some like tennis, some like shooting. If you don't like firearms, don't buy or shoot one. If you don't like Nikon, don;t buy or use one. There is no reason to criticize someone else's decision to have an item which you do not wish to own

Steve, with respect, I think you're inadvertently confusing the discussion with this. The article was not about people carrying hunting rifles, it was about people carrying concealed guns for personal protection. Those kind of guns, the ones being discussed here, are designed solely for one purpose, and that is to kill humans.

I am not at all confused. I disagree with the statement that a firearm is "something the sole purpose of which is to kill or maim".
I am not speaking of hunting rifles, either.

@Pete Miller true that. And I stay free and well protected partly because almost nobody carries guns that can be used to shoot me and my family with around these parts.


Again, true. My government can easily take away my freedom just like your government can easily take yours. It doesn't matter how many weapons you have, your fate will be the same as mine if the authorities decide it to be. Both our governments massively out-gun us, especially your government who out-guns everybody. Just ask the Branch Davidians, or the Iraqis for that matter. That's not a criticism btw, it is merely an observation. Your guns will make not one iota of difference if your government decides to take away your freedom or your life.

But you let me know where I've told Americans how they should live. I haven't, have I? I'm certainly not anti-American. I'm not even anti-guns - lots of people in the farming area I live in here in Australia have guns. Getting a rifle for target practice at the local gun club is on my to-do list; maybe I'll even hunt deer one day.

I have, however, pointed out that in the USA, you have many many more people dead and maimed as a result of gunshot wounds than in any civilised country. In response to this fact, very few of you say "wow, how terrible that we have such a problem, that no other civilised country has to such an appalling degree. We really should do something about the fact that Americans are dying of gunshot wounds in such astronomical numbers compared to the rest of the western world". Why don't you make solving that problem your first thought when you hear of more dead children from gunshot wounds?

But, even if you start to admit your country has a problem, how you solve that problem is up to you - I have certainly not told you how to. But the first step to solving it is admitting there is a problem. The rest of the world sees it and we find it amazing that you don't.

Steve, I guess you don't run around with your gun. You put it in your trunk, take it in a bag to your shooting range and then shoot at the range.
Thats not what this discussion is about.

I like guns. I shot a lot in my life. I was in the military.
Yet I am so happy that I can walk around my town and I know that nobody is carrying.

The statement of in this thread: "being irrational afraid of guns", just dont add up, only an american could get an idea that stupid !

I just wonder how you can explain that the crime in European countries are less than in the US, even though we are not allowed to carry firearms?

And in Norway where I live, we have less crime per Citizen than the US and not even the Police are armed in a normal matter ... only on special instructs, as these days because of the raised threat for terror ...

Why is it that female homicide victims in USA are rated nearly 100 times higher than in other western countries and that over 50% of those homicides are with firearms?

I have no irrational fear of firearms or that its allowed to carry them, but when the statistics are as high as for the USA, I do understand that the easy access to firearms are the reason for the high rate of lethal domestic violence.

Feel free to carry as you like, but dont tell those of us that see a little longer than our own garden that a free access of firearms will make the community safer ...
Thats being IRRATIONAL

Predominantly white society (short answer).

If you read my post carefully, I was not telling you how to run your country. I was observing that I don't feel safe there for the reason of the massive proliferation of killing devices. Simple really. Judging from your comments that follow, you need to stoop down, carefully reach between your knees and pull your head out of your ass. Alas your comments typify many of the things which cause non-Americans to make judgments about your country - which they are perfectly entitled to do - as you would be about my own country if you visited there.

That is spot on, Jaran.

I would rather say that you are conditioned to use and defend guns more than we are. There are no specific advertisement against guns and ammo back in Europe. We almost solely use them for hunting. We don't have a gun lobby back there, or it is quite quiet. However, you have the NRA and pretty much a whole bunch of sophism to justify the use of guns.

But, as I saw this little debate, I went online and checked the studies on safety and guns. It's quite clear, after a quick review that there is a widespread consensus on the fact that guns to help and on the top of that, increase chances of being killed or hurt. So please, I don't mind you having your own opinion, but calling the whole European continent irrational is indeed arrogant and quite frankly, in the context, stupid too.

The last thing that bugs me : what is the damn correlation between photography and guns? Seriously, I don't see. I mean, is it truly relevant?

@Pete Miller.... yes, Europe is a real thing. It's called EU (European Union). We can say "we" as a european culture because we all share relativley equal believes.
Look it up.

I never said europe is a - think - write

I as a human living in europe think there is a "we"-feeling in the EU.
Since you are so strong on personal opinions yourself...I guess WE can have ours.

Thx for informing us Peter. We live there, we vote for stuff like this and we are well aware of the situation. Nonetheless, thx for your wikipedia information.

A few things you have got right imho (and my opinion):

Europe is a continent (correct). The EU is a pseudo union of some countries in Europe (correct). Not every country in Europe is part of the EU (correct). The EU does not equal Europe (correct, the EU cannot even make important decisions omn its own). The EU is also not a country (and most of us civilians hope it will never ever become one).

That's a big call, and I assume one made in ignorance of what people do in other Western countries. One thing people in other Western countries do is travel and see how other people live, rather than rely on the self-interested views of people who don't. I was brought up with guns because my father served in WW2 and knew at first hand what they were capable of. I don't own any now, although I used to, because I don't see a need for them for my own sporting interests or protection. For the record, Australians can use guns, but we don't get fed nonsense designed to increase paranoia and gun makers' profits, and we certainly don't get taught to fear them. Do what you like in your own country, but please don't try to drag the rest of us into your debate with a false argument.

I was simply responding to your assertion that: "Many countries, especially other Western countries, teach and condition their people to have an irrational fear of guns."
So, don't accuse me of being anti-American, not to mention lying or being dishonest, or any of the other irrelevant nonsense you just spouted. Intemperate language doesn't add any credibility to your position.

Yes, I am not an American, however I am from a Western country. I am from the Netherlands in fact.

We are NOT taught and conditioned by our government(s) and lobby organizations (NRA) to have an irrational fear of guns, we are countries that have learned that gun control controls violence and creates a more stable and less violence society.

Over here no civilian is allowed to carry a gun (like in all other civilized Western countries) and it works. No matter how you look at statistics, the USA is the worst example of all Western countries related to crime and gun related accidents.
Over here only “high end” criminals have guns and the use them more or less for 99% to kill each other. That is ok, the more they kill each other, the better it is for us.

The Netherlands is roughly twice the size of the state of New Jersey or 0,43% or so of the USA. In our country we have 5-10 gun related incidents in the whole country a year. In the USA only there were 13.000 deaths by gun related incidents and over 50.000 gun related incidents in 2015. If we take the size of our countries in the comparison, that is a factor of 5.000 to 20.000 more incidents in the USA than in The Netherlands.

In each gun related statistic per capita the USA leads: in mass shootings, in murders in school shootings, in homicides, in gun violence or whatever you can think off. In fact there are more people killed in the USA alone by gunfire than US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq. There are 400 times more gun related deaths in the USA than US citizens killed in terrorism related incidents in the last 15 years (including 9/11).

So forget the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, forget anything the National Rifle Association and grow up and spend all those trillions of dollars spend on guns and so in a better and equal society and your life quality improves and there is no need any more for idiotic discussions on “packing heat”. Focus on the future like other Western civilized countries do and focus on the quality of live for your country.

I am sorry Peter, but it seems to me that you started here with: "More than likely the downvotes are not from Americans. Many countries, especially other Western countries, teach and condition their people to have an irrational fear of guns." So quite an arrogant and disrespectful opinion on other Western countries and how we look at the gun issue in the US.

A lot of wording in your reaction, but in the end statistics never lie.

Because of the US its involvement in domestic affairs of almost any country, because of its economic interest like oil and so, it is quite logic that we also focus on the US as it impacts our economies.

On the gun issue, our involvement is because it is so sad to see a country struggle with its legacy and seeming incapable of creating a normal society without all that violence. So we feel sad for you guys.

No need to strip the numbers. They are mainly from your own US Statistic Bureau.

Ooooh my god!

Guys like this are send to an mental institution over here.

Current democratic governments as well.

This is so funny to read.
Pete is so resistant to facts and obvious statistics and he calls everybody else's hilarious.
SO happy to be somewhere else in the world entirely as I guess there are more of him out there.

And yes. EVERYBODY is entitled to critizise and interogate and watch really closely at what anybody is up to. Especially if its a country as big and mighty as the US.
We're all watching you! I don't know what reality they lives in. Let's watch some 60 Mins.

BTW, I notice that Mario guy claims to be former NL SF, while claims he has a 50DE, and that is very fishy. I would say he is a keyboard commando. Because I know a few of the real ones, and they either use rifle, or 9/45 with follow up capacity. 50ae is a nightmare in terms of combat, training and supply. There is no reason to go for a PDW or carbine instead of a huge hunting pistol.

I am 52 and my SF days are long gone. The IMI was a gift from an Israelian SF and is in a safe at the bank and used only once a year or so to keep skills.

For the rest.... pretty sure you are so experienced (because you know a few of the real ones) that you know what you are talking about.

You know what BS is right? Shoot once a year for skills? If you call "Chairman of the student association" an operator, I just can't stop laughing.... @peteMiller, come out and look at this operator. I'm done Mr"Special Service" Next time, pretend you are KCT, claim you train with Browning HP and use a different name. Please, I cant fall asleep when I am laughing that hard.

There must be a lot of anger and frustration in your life.

Have Fun, good nite.

"Amusingly enough it is your kind of interfering, authoritarian attitude that has led to your part of the world starting the world's most destructive wars, and the desire for so many people to want to arm themselves in the first place." well so let's take a look who started the last couple of wars... oh yes.. the americans..

"That means that for 222 out of 239 years – or 93% of the time – America has been at war. (We can quibble with the exact numbers, but the high percentage of time that America has been at war is clear and unmistakable.)
Indeed, most of the military operations launched since World War II have been launched by the U.S."

"You talk about gun controls but people like you are simply about trying to control others, period. After all, here you are, a foreigner, trying to control Americans on something that has nothing to do with you or your country." wrong. you talk about gun control TO control others. that's more like oppression which is worse.

"common sense and logic" common sense and logic? common sense and logic is exact the opposite what you are referring too.

yet alone you bash him for saying that "a foreigner, trying to control Americans on something that has nothing to do with you or your country" and "It never ceases to amaze this American how so many people from your part of the world arrogantly and disrespectfully like to do that with so many of our domestic issues." yet YOU started with your first comment above to insult "the foreigners" that the other western countries are "Many countries, especially other Western countries, teach and condition their people to have an irrational fear of guns." So let's sum this up: well yeah.. you started it and yet you say that he is the one... I mean COME ON?!?!

oh and yes. I do own a gun. And for myself I hope the day will never come that I have to use it. Nor do I NEVER want to aim that tool for protection to another human beeing!

Amusingly enough most people outside the US simply look at gun statistics and their own situation in their own country and simply conclude that you are the only civilized Western country that has all these issues.

I never ever have read a discussion in a European photographers web site on "packing heat". Why: we do not own guns and do not have all those crime issues.

So if you are the only civilized Western country with all of these issues and all the rest have only minor issues perhaps..... you can be wrong? never thought of that?

Thx Peter for informing me on the status of the EU structure and history ;-) Pretty sure that you know more about us than we do. I shall watch our politics better to get me informed of our current country status

For all the rest, you are either plain stupid or you have build some concrete or titanium structures around your brains. Because I do not agree with you I am now a fascist and anti-American? That off course besides having an irrational fear of guns...

Great ;-) Personally I see an an American presidential candidate now who IMHO is a pure fascist.

Again, because it is so easy to understand:

I am from The Netherlands, which is roughly twice the size of the state of New Jersey or 0,43% or so of the USA. In our country we have 5-10 gun related incidents in the whole country a year. In the USA only there were 13.000 deaths by gun related incidents and over 50.000 gun related incidents in 2015. If we take the size of our countries in the comparison, that is a factor of 5.000 to 20.000 more incidents in the USA than in The Netherlands.

So why do we not discuss photographers "pack heat" issues in our country, that is because we have no such issues.

In each gun related statistic per capita the USA leads: in mass shootings, in murders in school shootings, in homicides, in gun violence or whatever you can think off. In fact there are more people killed in the USA alone by gunfire than US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq. There are 400 times more gun related deaths in the USA than US citizens killed in terrorism related incidents in the last 15 years (including 9/11).

So people in other civilized Western countries look at these numbers and think: "Why do they not simply understand that they create the issues themselves".

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