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.

 

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538 Comments

Previous comments
David Rimbach's picture

@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.

David Rimbach's picture

I never said europe is a country...read - 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.

Mario Van Essen's picture

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.

Mario Van Essen's picture

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.

Mario Van Essen's picture

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.

Mario Van Essen's picture

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

Mario Van Essen's picture

Current democratic governments as well.

David Rimbach's picture

This is so funny to read.
Pete is so resistant to facts and obvious statistics and he calls everybody else names....it'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!

jonas y's picture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2ZibinrFJE&index=7&list=PLzZ_l1gOm1NgPF... I don't know what reality they lives in. Let's watch some 60 Mins.

jonas y's picture

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.

Mario Van Essen's picture

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.

jonas y's picture

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.

Mario Van Essen's picture

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

jonas y's picture

Have Fun, good nite.

Berthold Meincke's picture

"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!

Mario Van Essen's picture

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?

Mario Van Essen's picture

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".

Mario Van Essen's picture

The problem is that pro gun people like you have ample arguments and the same storylines again and again.

People like me from another country look less emotional and personal involved to the whole gun matter and simply conclude that other civilized Western countries have much less issues with gun control. That plain fact simply does not reach you brain obviously.

No issue, do whatever you like, but we are entitled to our opinion.

jonas y's picture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76aM3t7tqmE&list=PLzZ_l1gOm1NgPFv4EfAbxt... Let's exit the conversation, and live our lives instead of talking to individuals like the guy who got interviewed.

For those Europeans who question what "America" is about, think about what Americans did when all your countries being beat to the ground or surrendered to The Third Reich. Or when USSR was in the doorway, what did USA did. Think about that. Thank you.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Did it occur to you that America's superiority lends cause as to why we've been participating in war for most of our history? Whenever we initiated a war, was the alternative to wait until we were attacked first? How many involvements were due to massive outcry from other nations to come bail their helpless asses out?

Call us the 'world's police force' if you want, but none can project power like the United States. We show up everywhere, because no one else can.

What kind of gun do you own?

Mario Van Essen's picture

IMI DR .50 Action Express

Jordan GRAY's picture

I was asking Bertie, sorry for not specifying. That's a ridiculous gun. No surprise you'd be concerned with public safety with that, my god! You can kill the bad guy lurking behind the refrigerator....in your neighbor's house.

The tale gets taller.

Mario Van Essen's picture

As I said before, it was a gift. A gift locked away in a bank safe.

It is certainly not a ridiculous gun, more quite unique, but heavy and expensive.

Berthold Meincke's picture

oh and again: here is the one who you are bashing.. guess he has way more experience than you...

Mario Van Essen - 2 hours ago
Former NL special services, trained, used guns, injured peopel, killed people and imagine: YES I am against guns and pro gun control.

Mario Van Essen's picture

Hmmmm "reasonable, facts, common sense and logic" all add up to an opposite conclusion: the US is the only civilized Western country with all these issues.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Coming from a predominantly white society. Let's just compare apples to oranges while we're at it. Forget about the disproportionate gang culture prevalence in the States.....yeah, that's not a factor at all.

Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

@ Peter Miller - the fact is that in the US the lethal domestic violence are up to 100 times higher than in any other western country per 100k citizen, and in over 50% the lethal force was done with firearms !

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