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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Previous comments
Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

As long as your domestic problems regarding guns have as huge impact on European countries as it haves, I will say my opinion for any subject regarding it when I like.
USA and Norway where I am borned and live are both members of NATO, and as long as your domestic laws has impact on NATO and the rest of the World, I have all rights to speak out loud about it !

The moment USA's domestic problems does not impact the European community, I will stop speak my opinion on the matter !

And no, I dont think the domestic violance in USA or other countries will be lesser without guns, but there will be lesser victims of lethal force done by guns !!!

Again, only an American can find any logic in that more guns creates less lethal victims.

Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

Of course it has impact on the rest of the world, and calling someone that disagree with you for a fascist only shows how ignorant and narrowsighted you are. USA ain't a little countryside place at the far end of det map anymore, its about 200 years since it was that. Your domestic and Foreign politics has huge influence. when your country was in the near bankerupt state a few years ago, it had impact on the economy of the world, when you have liberal laws for guns or your Healthcare does not work properly, it has impact. Your country's laws around datagathering have huge impacts for Europeans rights to privacy, but you wouldnt care less, as long as you believe it actually helps in any aspect of your "freedom".

Try to use Google and find out what a fascist actually are!

I must disagree. First of all let me say that to carry a gun is in your constitution so to change that you need a popular vote by Americans. So we non-Americans will/can have no act or part of that vote.

With that aside, in the article Saunders stated “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.” Some questions I would ask anybody who carrys a concealed gun, if you are been robbed at gun-point would you be able to get your gun out to defend yourself without been shot? Do you have a round in the chamber already? OK so you have your gun out. This would be the most stressful situation you would ever face. You are now in a fight for you life. Could you get the safety off? Can you aim or would you shoot blindly?

I understand the need to protect yourself and you family. However, in Chicago to November 2015 there were 2703 shootings and 440 deaths ( while in Toronto in the full year there were 55 deaths ( So if you could reduce the number of guns on the streets then I believe the streets would be safer. If you cannot get a gun and the bad guy cannot get a gun, you might still get robbed but the “cost” should be a lot less. I know that in my world the big question is how would you actually get the guns off the streets? And for that I do not have an answer.

The law may state that any citizen can carry a gun, but that does not mean the law is right. Saudi Arabia has a law that prohibits women from driving, I disagree with that law as well. But as an outsider I cannot change it either.


Jordan GRAY's picture

This is hilarious: "If you cannot get a gun and the bad guy cannot get a gun, you might still get robbed but....." HA HA HA HA HA Liberal logic at its worst. Are you listening to the garbage out of your own mouth? You've been robbed blind, stabbed, and are lying in intensive care, but at least there are less guns on the street. WTF man?!?! What are you going to tell your daughter when she's raped? "Well honey, what is really important is you didn't have a gun and potentially make matters worse."

What a weak ball-less arguement. Not to mention how UNrealistic your hypothetical scenario is, I am blown away you would still choose no chance whatsoever as opposed to a slim chance. By your approach I can scare you out of anything. -----You're being cut-off on the freeway. Did you adjust your tire pressure before leaving? Is your seatbelt on? If not, do you have time to put it on? Is your maintenance up to date? Well, you're better off not driving a car.------ For starters, only an idiot would attempt to pull their weapon on someone who has the jump on them; however that is still true whether you have a knife, brick, or balled fist. Are you going to ban those?

These hypothetical scenarios from the left are always so outlandish and orchestrated to support their hopeless man's point. Here's a real life scenario for you; recently happened in Ohio: crazy man storms into a pizzeria wielding a machete and immediately proceeds to hack everyone in sight. You have the following options: A.) hide under your table and assume the fetal position, B.) politely approach the madman and request that he doesn't kill you, C.) draw your gun > shout "Stop I will shoot!" > wait briefly for a response > if none, then proceed to open fire until the threat is neutralized. Everyone in their right mind would choose to have a gun.

Here's one question to your many hypothetical ones: do you carry a gun everyday? Of course you don't. With anything you're passionate about you tend to read into and stay up on. One thing that is hard not to come across is "situational awareness". Something that would keep you out of your hair-brained scenario in the first place. Even if you found yourself in your scenario, it is is unbelievable you would choose zero chance above a slim chance. I've said before on this thread: Like guns, seatbelts aren't guaranteed to save your life, but you still buckle up; don't you?

Our law does not say "any citizen can carry a gun." I'm astounded by the ignorance; Canadian or not. It should be well known to many that the 2nd amendment is in place as a precaution to a tyrannical government. There is absolutely no question of right and wrong. It's simply a necessity to our existence.

Daniel Lee's picture

Excellent points Mario!

Jordan GRAY's picture

Liberals, yay! High-fives, hugs, and yoga! Woopee! Strength in helplessness! We will prevail! some distant dimension.

Tyler Newcomb's picture

I think it's smart that you carry a firearm. And I think it's ludicrous that people downvote your comment for having a different opinion

Brian Dowling's picture

It's not a fear of guns. I think it is just a gun culture difference. I personally like firearms, but it is not something to brag about for non-NRA members. Posting photos of your gun is basically like posting empty bottles of beer that you drank last night to me. Some guys go out and drink some beer and enjoy their night without anything to prove. Some guys get trashed, then tell everyone that drank a dozen beers just to prove they are manly, but in reality it is immature. I like what Barry Sanders said, act like you've been there.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Far from a measurement of manhood as many liberals would like to compare an inverse relationship between the size of a man's penis and weapon. That is true immaturity. Especially more invalid when female gun ownership is exploding in the states.

If you were living in said gun culture, then you would see that shared image of his gun and gear in a different light. You see him proving a point, while we see someone simply sharing his 'load out'. People like to see that and may simply compliment him and say, "hey, i like your gear; nice setup!" Or perhaps, "i've been considering purchasing a gun, you've provided me with some good ideas, thanks."

There's an element of envy there; lashing out at what you can't have. Even if you may own a firearm in Europe, then you own a mechanically complex paperweight. Usage for self-defense is generally condemned.

Does that really surprise you?

Personally, I think that the police in this country are too busy shooting unarmed black men, writing speeding tickets, and arresting people for marijuana (why it's still a crime in 2016 is an embarrassment to our country) to go after real criminals. So it's natural for some people to want to protect themselves.

I carry 24/7. I've got 33 years of shooting experience, and I've been through some SWAT training with our local police. But I don't think for one second that if someone pulls a gun on me, I have any chance of drawing and shooting first. And I'm certain that I'm more likely to use it to end the suffering of an injured animal (because Utah drivers have no respect for "Deer crossing" signs) than use it against a charging elk, moose, or bear. Ironically, I also have a bear gun, but don't carry it in the backcountry.

There you go, some more fuel for the flames. ;)

jonas y's picture

Nice, thank you for sharing.

Rick Garcia's picture

Ha, bodyguard 380, nice! I'm looking at the 9mm S&W Shield.

Paul Saxby's picture

Carrying a gun just to protect your expensive camera gear from being stolen is a poor excuse to carry a weapon. Surely as a professional Photographers we all have insurance, and that insurance covers us against our tools being stolen, I know mine does. If someone pulled a weapon on me I would simply hand over my gear. No camera gear is worth getting shot over.

EXACTLY!!! Are these armed photogs gonna get in a wild west shootout over a couple thousand dollars worth of gear? SMH

Jordan GRAY's picture

All that sticks out in this photo is the disposable camera. Lol, really, I didn't even know those still existed.

Jeff Laity's picture

What the hell are you so afraid of? Someone might take your stuff? Get insurance, and an upgrade if you ever have to use it. You're going to take someone's life for grabbing your Olympus? Spoiler alert: you'll go to jail in most states.

F-stoppers: shitty, political, clickbait topic. Do better.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Jeff, you, like many others, immediately associate 'gun + camera gear' with '"I'msa' gonna' shoot anyones tryins' ta' touch ma' stuffs!" Did the thought occur to you that a photographer with a gun also carries a gun when he's not on the job? Kind of like keys and a wallet, and perhaps you take a pocket knife with you? So the same reason he carries off duty would carry over to all other times, or does the camera bag magically change one's values? You are presuming that the assailants simply want your gear, but the most valuable gear is your life. If you can talk them into taking your stuff and leaving you alone, great! Know what's better? Demonstrating you are not a victim, the bad guys decide to move along, no one dies, no gear lost. Do you know how many altercations are ended by simply brandishing? Left holstered at that.

So much anger and bigotry from the left (that I read in your final line); who ironically paint conservatives in the same light. We are said to be so lacking in understanding, while liberals are so vocal about something they know nothing about. For example, if you went through the process of obtaining a concealed carry permit, then you would know the content of the instruction is 95% law....not target practice.

Daniel LLOYD's picture

When I saw Kyle's post I thought maybe he shoots in dangerous locations and his projects can't avoid this chance of conflict. Then I opened his portfolio and really struggled to see the rationale.

Lets take this to the the extreme and ask if conflict/war photographers should carry a firearm. Some may debate that under those circumstances the photographer is there to observe and not interact, I'm not sure if I agree with this.

When it comes to the issue of robbery I think the issue then generalises and it's regardless if you're a photographer.

Tom Lew's picture

Not even sure that's an option for me in Manhattan but if the situation ever arose I think my best weapon will be my Nike Lunar's.

jonas y's picture

Get a spary

If I was getting married, nothing would make me feel less comfortable than knowing the photographer had a gun! Then again, I'm not American and you guys seem to have a completely polar view on gun ownership.

Alex Cooke's picture

Not all Americans hold the same views on guns.

Jordan GRAY's picture

They're called 'liberals' and are deathly afraid of what they don't understand.

***Edit*** the funny part is the people giving dislikes are liberals, you can't make this stuff up! HA HA HA

jonas y's picture

Here's what's funny, those who call themselves "liberals" wants everyone else's right to be stripped away.

As a person who is pro gay marriage, pro "choice", pro-freedom in general, I found it is such an irony that they call themselves that, they should be called "Übermensch want to be".

[I posted in the wrong place - moved]

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

How about if it was police officer? Now what is the difference? Police often is less trained than private citizens...

Mario Van Essen's picture

Interesting opinion. Not sure what your history is, but like Paul Saxby here below my opinion is that most (99,9%) of all civilians (gun owners), police officers and military are perhaps capable of handling a gun, are members of a gun club or what so ever.

Handling a gun is something else than using a gun, in any situation, in any position, in any climate and still being capable of controlling its usage. Most civilian gun owners think they are great with their gun, but it is exactly that attitude that gets them in trouble.

Jordan GRAY's picture

As a pro-gun'er I agree with you. It's easy to be an outstanding marksman on a controlled range shooting paper-assailants. Switch to real-life and add confusion, elevated heart rate, and shots fired in your direction...and target practice just became incredibly difficult.

I'm aware of that fact, and I seek out additional training and education, but even if I had the equivalent experience of Rambo, I still would avoid potentially violent situations as I do now. Like the officer in the article was quoted—vigilance and some streets smarts—they're all most people need. My firearm doesn't make me invincible, and, again, like the officer said—it comes with great responsibility—I can be found guilty by a judge simply for being in an avoidable situation by his point of view; simply brandishing at the wrong time can get me in a lot of trouble legally.

On top of legal trouble there are deadly consequences. One civilian heroically stood up to a mass-shooter at a Wal-Mart, and sadly he was shot in the back of head by the shooter's accomplice; who would have counted on a second shooter? Not many, and certainly not I.

I will continue to carry. If the time comes, I'll decide then whether or not to engage; I'll take that over no choice at all.

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