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
Simon Patterson's picture

That's a lot of "what ifs". Your hypotheticals seem pretty implausible to me. More likely the victim will be shot.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

That's a lot of "what ifs" on both ends. The entire law is build on "what ifs". Sometimes "what if that will happen again" called legal precedent.
In some countries it is required by law to have fire extinguisher in the car and have it inspected in regular intervals. Most people will never use that extinguisher but in case they need it, they have it. I keep one in my car in US and I had to use it once in car accident that I witnessed.
People buy home insurance based on "what ifs".
Even president forced us to buy health insurance based on "what if". So "what ifs" are very important part of the conversations.
Guns, insurance, fire extinguisher and condoms have one thing in common. It is better to have it and don't need it than need it and don't have it.

Simon Patterson's picture

You are correct, in theory. What ifs are also a great way to add unnecessary confusion to an otherwise productive conversation. And viola! Here we are.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

I am not confused. Are you? When I studied computer science or network security, I was thought to consider every possible "what if", test every, not expected variable. You can't only consider those that work for your thesis. My point was that criminals don't have respect for your life. If someone comes to take your property, he is ready to hurt you and most likely will, either you comply or not. Concealed firearms are not a problem. Crime is a problem. Guns ≠ crime. Criminals having guns is a problem, but you can't do anything about that, can you?

Simon Patterson's picture

"Criminals having guns is a problem, but you can't do anything about that, can you?" Sure you can. There's lots that can be done to limit the availability of guns to criminals. Plenty of places are very effective at it. I happen to live in one of them.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

1. How will you stop criminals from having guns?
2. How will you protect yourself from criminal with knife or just stronger than you?
3. Fear of guns is not rational. You think that limiting guns will solve something were in fact criminals will stay being criminals and law abiding citizens will stay defenseless.

Simon Patterson's picture

You're not listening. Plenty of places, including Australia, have successfully severely limited the availability of guns to criminals, especially to the crack head/meth head types you mentioned.

You're free to ignore this fact, or you could look to such countries to learn how they do it, and maybe apply some of that to your context. Up to you.

The kind of guns we're talking about here are tools designed for one thing and one thing only - to kill humans. I think that anyone without a healthy fear of such a device has lost touch with reality.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture It doesn't look like big change in murder rate or anything that gun laws would influence other than murders with use of firearm.

Simon Patterson's picture

Roman, do you realise you've linked to stats showing a 31.5% fall in homicide rates since 1992-3? Applying that to the USA would mean 5,000 fewer dead people per year in your country. Wouldn't that be amazing!

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Do you realize that it has nothing to do with the objective of the conversation? We are not debating which country is safer to live in. Australia seems like awesome country. Anyways, guns law changed in 1996, and that did not have significant impact on homicide rate. The rate was changing similarly before and after the new law. The only thing that has change was the rate of homicides with usage of guns.
There are serious issues that should be addressed here in order to lower crime rates, but guns are just a red herring so people don't think about REAL source of crime. Great and extreme example is blaming guns for suicide rate instead of investigating source of depressions.
This conversation doesn't make much sense. Your opinion is inspired by irrational emotions and by what media feeds you with. You fail to apply logic. Even from the statistics, you will pick and choose those that work for your agenda. It is very common thing though, so don't feel bad about it.

Simon Patterson's picture

Roman, the 31.5% fall in homicide rates were the facts *you* linked to, not me! Ignore your own link if you choose, but it is a little bit ridiculous to so plainly deny it now you've referred me to them. I'm not picking and choosing the statistics, I'm reporting back to you the statistics you chose yourself!

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

OMG it feels like talking to stubborn child that just wants that candy. Read the statistics again and THINK! I don't deny drop in homicide rates. It is not related to guns though. But anyways. I can't help you with your IQ so I am out.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Simon, comments like this just add proof to the point that fear of firearms comes from ignorance. "it's better than concealed guns being carried throughout the community like in America. ...I'm glad I don't live there." Heard garbage like that from plenty of Aussie trolls.

Painting the picture that a daily trek to the bus station in America is like a bullet dodging scene from the matrix. Or a skewed scene from fantasia where concealed firearms come to life in cartoon form and emerge from pockets all by themselves and start pointing at you in unison. What's true is you have bad neighborhoods you avoid...just like we do here. What's also true is the individuals with concealed weapons are the least of your concern; they've applied for a permit, taken a safety course, submitted their fingerprints to the police, and gone through a thorough background check. Anyone willing to go through that is not a threat. I'd be more concerned with snakes where you live, rather than guns here.

The Brits tend to make their point, respect the differences, and back off. But Aussies, Aussies don't shut up, and seam hell bent on waiving their flag of defenseless envy. They'd probably be the first waive of blue helmets happily volunteering to assist with an American gun confiscation.

Simon Patterson's picture

Jordan, we look at the number of children and adults killed in your country by guns and are appalled. All we see from Americans in response is ones such as yours, which is simply justifications for the culture that breeds such an appalling situation.

Why don't you call the appalling state of affairs just that, and get serious about all those ongoing deaths? Why don't you look to places that don't have such an appalling problem and try to learn from them?

When you're trying to reduce your gun death problem (over 33,000 per year) down to the level of Australia's snake bite death problem (0-2 per year), we'll see you're serious about protecting your own children and adults from a known problem.

Until then, we'll remain incredulous that you ignore all the places that avoid your appalling problem and you'll choose instead to make justifications rather than learn from others. And you'll let your children continue to die at an appalling rate.

Jordan GRAY's picture

If you're going to cite stats then you should do so correctly. 2/3 of your death toll are due to suicides. If you want to count suicides to help sensationalize your point, then I can't fix stupid. You have to admit that a suicidal person is going to find one of many readily available vehicles to accomplish that. Then reveals the fact that not many people die by gun homicide at all. Look at the numbers. Tons of black on black, and hispanic on hispanic. Who makes up the large majority of violent gangs in this country? You'll never guess! Another study pointed out that 30-50% of homicides city to city were gang related. Wow, that number is even less impressive.

What's left that is really killing people? Automobiles. If you were truly the humanitarian gift to America you portray yourself to be then you'd be trying to lower vehicular deaths. Oh great Simon of wonder.

Kids die in swimming pools more than guns. You should be attacking that too. There are many factors around which children are dying, and often there is a relationship between impoverished neighborhoods. There's no one forcing their family to continue accepting welfare checks, food stamps, and government housing. If they want their kids to stop being shot, then they are free to better themselves and move to a safer area.

Whatever the case is, we will have casualties. There has to be a price for liberty; it cannot be perfect. It's not so much a justification as it is fundamental to American existence. You see the 2nd amendment in place to kill children, did you read it? Did anyone ever point out how integral it is to our freedom? The last defence against tyranny for the people...something you don't have anymore because you foolishly turned them all in. Now you are completely reliant on a government for protection; you have to accept it, because you have no choice.

Punishing the masses for the irresponsibility of the few.

Simon Patterson's picture

It is so sad to see people who care more about their own "rights" than they do about the thousands of their own children's deaths at the hand of a device designed solely for killing people. I guess that maybe you just don't know any better. It's the wilful ignorance that astonishes many of us in the civilised world.

Simon Patterson's picture

And btw, you could probably learn a thing or two about reducing automobile fatalities from Australia, too.

Jordan GRAY's picture

There goes that liberal guilt trip troll nonsense. You're selfish and base your decision on emotion.

You don't care about statistics. I just reduced your number to a negligible amount, and you continue rambling on like every other shackle dragger. There was an episode of the Simpsons when they visited your country...speaking to you just reaffirms every stereotype they depicted. It's as funny as it is disturbing. Did they teach you to read in prison? Apparently you can't absorb anything I said, or troll on and avoid every counter I have to yours. A parrot that just won't shut up (just as I predicted in my original comment).

Somehow in your warped mind you see the lives a few (0.002% of the population) being more important than the majority.

"Oh, but the children, the children! Don't mind the facts, the children, the children!"

I don't expect you to understand. You're from generations of serfs. We have a liberty that you've never experienced, and never will...ever. Nothing left to do except attack those that you're envious of. That's how some of your ancestors populated your country; it's in your blood.

Simon Patterson's picture

I see. So why don't you tell us, Jordan - which gun deaths do you think are appalling? It's not the blacks who are shot, it's not the Hispanics who are shot, it's not the children who are shot. Whose lives do matter to you?

Are there any people's deaths you care about, or are we left with Jordan only caring about Jordan?

Jordan GRAY's picture

There you go again Simon, another liberal tactic of asking ridiculous questions that don't deserve an answer. Kind of like Lee badgering everyone to come up with a monetary value for a life; the currency threshold deciding when you shoot or not. It's total nonsense and adds nothing to the discussion; bunch of circular rhetoric.

You finalized all your questions to one, so I'll answer that. "are we left with Jordan only caring about Jordan?"

The answer: Jordan cares about his country above all. Jordan cares about something bigger than himself. Jordan is willing to give his life defending his country as others have and continue to do so today. Jordan understands that some things may not be best for himself, but will preserve and protect a nation for generations after he is gone. Jordan understands that there is always a give and take, and to have certain things like liberty, that there will be drawbacks. Jordan understands that the root of violence is not the tool that was used, but the values of the individual; the social decay of the country; broken fatherless homes.

Simon Patterson's picture

Sorry to the families of the Sandy Hook victims, sorry to the family of the Officer Ashley Guindon who was recently shot dead just after she'd been sworn in as a police officer. Jordan doesn't find your deaths appalling, you're just necessary sacrifices to an abstract feeling he doesn't really understand but labels "liberty". Even asking him about how he feels about these senseless deaths is, according to him, total nonsense, just a liberal tactic of asking ridiculous questions. He says he cares about your country, but not enough to actually care about you. Such a heartless approach to fellow humans sounds as if the USA isn't actually the people who make it up!

All that selfless sacrifice you talk about isn't your own sacrifice, Jordan, it is the thousands of people who have actually died, particularly the innocent children for whom your "liberty" means absolutely nothing as they die in a pool of their own blood.

Jordan, your country's terrible statistics are not just numbers to be dismissed, they represent families and people. I find it incredible that you're quite content to allow families and people to be needlessly sacrificed in the name of so called "liberty". Americans have no more "liberty" than I do as an Australian, and most Americans have a lot less. "Liberty" is simply a word peddled around to justify your disregard for human life.

And it is your complete disregard for human life, to the point where you call considering other's horrible fates "total nonsense", that many of the rest of us find shocking.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Total nonsense is submitting to your circular argument completely dependent on your weak emotions; rather than fact. You then put words in my mouth when you're out of points: **troll alert**

Child deaths are somehow equivalent to deaths on a battlefield? By that idiocy, Dr. King died as a sacrifice to the support the Confederacy. There was a powerful man who once sent youths to war; you may have heard of him, Hitler was it? Ironically fond of banning guns as well. Incoherent fabrication to push a point: **troll alert**

One of our founding fathers was famously quoted, "Give me liberty, or give me death." Does that sum up the American attitude for you? Your definition of liberty IS the same as ours; just much weaker and severely limited; more accurately preceded by the word 'perceived'. Making up definitions as you see fit: **troll alert**

Avoids fact: **troll alert**

Repeats himself to no end, straying off incoherently to another dimension:
**immediate psych eval.**

Convinced evil only exists in the United States:
**shock therapy recommended**

Simon Patterson's picture

Roman, do you realise you've linked to stats showing a 31.5% fall in homicide rates in Australia since 1992-3? Applying that to the USA would mean 5,000 fewer dead people per year in your country. Wouldn't that be amazing!

Mario Van Essen's picture

Neither Jordan, nor Peter nor Roman here is interested in facts. They are only interested in defending their right to bear arms. Non of them have ever presented a fact, only opinions, emotions, bashing, ridiculous circular reasoning and a lot of text (most about nothing).

Personally I do not give a shit if they have guns, want guns, do not want guns or whatever. I care for the other half of the US that has to live with these people, people who not seem to understand that they are the base of the problems their society has. That is sad, especially for them.

Simon Patterson's picture

"They are only interested in their right to bear arms" is exactly what they communicate to us, I agree with you Mario. So callous and so sad for the many thousands of victims who are subject to the effects of such heartlessness.

No. Every life is valuable. If you want my gear, take it. Clearly you have more issues in your life than in mine that you've resorted to theft. My gear is insured and not worth anyone being shot over.

Andrew Richardson's picture

You're assuming someone robbing you is the only scenario you might encounter, you're also assuming that the reasonable person robbing you might not also try and physically harm you.

Patrick Karbownik's picture

Your family being murdered? Where the hell do you live that your family could be murdered any time? How many enemies do you have? Why are they all coming after your family with guns?

Patrick Karbownik's picture

And they probably also had guns in their homes.
There are 2 options:

1) Robber enters your home in the middle of the night --> You have your gun on your nightstand since you need to protect yourself --> but what about the kids in the house?

2) Robber enters your home --> you are a responsible gun owner who has his gun in a safe --> how the fuck do you protect yourself when you just woke up and someone is standing in front of you not letting you get your gun out of the safe??

What kind of movie do you live in where someone surprises you, points a gun at you and you somehow manage to distract them, get your gun out of where ever it is and shoot them before they do anything? Even if it is in your holster, you still have to get it while someone points one at you.

I can totally understand why people like guns but I don't get the old "I need it for protection" excuse. You like something, you don't want to give it up or away. End of story and that's totally fine. No need for bs excuses.
The only reason why you think you need guns for protection is because they are legal and it's super easy to get them. So some nutjob could get one and do you harm. If they were outlawed, they'd cost 10x the current price and you would never think that someone would come at you with a gun. And that's not just a fantasy, that's how it works in 2395798324 countries. Where no school shootings happen a few times a year. Where no kids shoot their parents in their back because they found a gun in their moms purse. Where no little girls kill their gun range instructors because 6 years olds gotta play with uzi's now.

Berthold Meincke's picture

"Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

This is a fantastic argument for those who can't tell the difference between one death and a dozen. Absolutely, a murderer can often kill one person or two with a knife before being stopped. But to really rack up those mind-blowing death counts – to make sure that many lives are destroyed and families ruined in the space of five or 10 minutes – you need a gun. If all you care about is apportioning blame and declaring that someone does or does not have murderous intent, then by all means, claim a knife and a gun are equivalent weapons. For those of us who are more worried about preventing unnecessary deaths than merely acknowledging the hate that resides in some people's hearts, however, the sheer amount of damage a gun can do is reason to limit who can get their hands on one.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

If you prefer pithy sayings to hard evidence, I can see why this would be convincing. But if you look at the real world, you'll find that far from being our only hope, good guys with guns are barely any help at all. No mass shootings in the past 30 years have been stopped by an armed civilian; in 1982, an armed civilian successfully killed a shooter, but it was only after he committed his crime.

It's not that there aren't enough guns, either. There are as many guns as people in this country, and fully a third of people are armed. Even when shootings happen in gun-happy places, where armed people are sure to be nearby, this vigilante scenario simply doesn't work. That's because pulling a gun out and shooting back in the chaos of a mass shooting just makes things worse, as was discovered when a would-be hero at the 2011 shooting of Gabby Giffords very nearly shot the wrong man. (The actual shooter was tackled by an elderly man.)

"But, mental health!"

Opponents of gun control love bringing up the problem of inadequate mental health care after a shooting. This is strictly for deflection purposes, as there is no indication that Republicans will ever work on meaningful reform for our mental health systems – which, it's true are woefully inadequate. It's an issue that only matters to them in the immediate aftermath of a shooting – then it's forgotten, until there's another shooting. Rinse, repeat.

Also, the "mental health" gambit, in this context, is always vague. What exactly is the plan? Round up everyone with a mental health issue and put them under lock and key? That amounts to 1 in 5 Americans, the vast majority of whom have no violent tendencies. Will we have some kind of extensive mental health registry? A lot of Americans who struggle with mental health are undiagnosed, though, and putting them on a government list that restricts their rights is not a great inducement to get a diagnosis. There are a lot of shooters in this country, so we have some pretty good data on mass shooters. And that data shows there's no reliable way to tell who is going to go off like this, and only 23 percent of shooters have a diagnosis. Even if all of those individuals got gold-star treatment, the system would only stop a few shooters.

"Second Amendment, baby."

Here's a good time to remind everyone that the Second Amendment was written by slaveholders before we had electricity, much less the kind of weaponry that would-be murderers can buy today. But sure, if you think it's that precious, we can compromise: If you love the Second Amendment that much, feel free to live in a powdered wig and shit in a chamberpot while trying to survive off what you can kill with an 18th century musket. In exchange, let those of us living in this century pass some laws so we can feel safe going to class, or the movies, or anywhere without worrying that some maladjusted man will try to get his revenge by raining death on random strangers.

"Guns are a part of American culture."

Indeed they are, but so are a lot of things, and that tells us nothing about whether they're good or bad and how we want to treat them going forward. Slavery was a part of American culture for a couple of hundred years, but eventually we decided it had to go.

all in all.... The question isn't whether we could snap our fingers and make every gun disappear. It's whether we can make it harder for criminals to get guns, and harder for an unbalanced person with murderous intent to kill so many people. The goal is to reduce violence as much as possible. There's no other problem for which we'd say if we can't solve it completely and forever we shouldn't even try.

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