What Can We Learn from These Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes?

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In the wake of the tragic shooting and killing of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun culture and gun control law are in the spotlight. There are many questions, not the least urgent one being, why would a civilian bring a gun into their home in the first place? Photographer Kyle Cassidy travelled 20,000 miles around the country taking portraits of the so-called “everyman” gun owners in their home, asking that very question, compiling the work in the book Armed in America , recently spotted by Kottke. Not all answers hit the outright disturbing note of this one: “I own a gun because I’m a fuckin’ American and a Marine. It’s my God-given right.” However, undoubtedly, we can look back at this project with renewed concern about what it means to be a gun owner in the US and renewed skepticism as to whether we need better answers or better laws.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Beth, Paul, Gavin and Emma

AK-47, Bersa .380, Ruger P345

Paul: My family had guns the whole time I was a kid. then i went off and joined the army and went away and come back. I have guns now largely for the same reason I have fire extinguishers in the house and spare tires in the car. I’m a self reliant kind of guy. and there could come a time when I need to protect my family and I’m a self reliant kind of guy.

Beth: I have one for self protection. I was raised to never rely on anyone else to protect me or watch my back. It took me a year to pick out one that I liked.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Chris with his Raven Arms .25, Cecilia with her six-gun tattoos.

Chris: I don’t promote the fact that I have a gun, but I grew up in Maine. I don’t believe in hunting, I’ll still eat the meat, but I don’t want to kill anything.

Cecilia: I grew up in Rappahannock county — the land of very big trucks and very big guns. The gun trading post is right across the street from the church.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Portia with her Beretta 96, Anthony with his Remington 870

Portia: I learned to shoot a gun when I was 10 or 11. My mother had a boyfriend who was a San Luis Obispo County Sherrif, and he lived in a teepee with a “wolf dog”. We’d stay out there, eat ashcakes for breakfast and shoot his guns .The first time I shot a shotgun, I landed on my ass and laughed uncontrollably the way you do when you’re a kid.

Anthony: I own a gun because I’m a fuckin’ American and a Marine. It’s my God-given right.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Dan and his Mossberg Model 88, Bushmaster AR-15, Rock Island Armory / Sendra M16, Remington 700 PSS,

Springfield XD, FN Five-seveN, H&K USP, Sig Sauer P226, Colt Commander 1911, and Glock 22

Dan: I consider the ownership of arms not only a right, but the duty of a free people to themselves and future generation

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Jessica with her Kahr P9 and Samantha

Jessica: I’m just one little girl in the world.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Howard with his C. Sharps Arms Co. Model 1874 in .45-70

Howard: I love history and I love old mechanical devices — guns are both. I also enjoy target shooting.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Stan with his Taurus PT38s .38 Super

I think everybody should have a gun. It levels the playing field.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Eleanor and Drew with Obie and their SKS 776, 1958 .22 cal Single Bolt Action, Mossberg

Single shot 12g, Mossberg 12g pump, and Ruger P90 .45 cal

Drew: Owning a firearm brings me some sort of balance. When I am angry at the world I find relief in dropping a clip into the air. And, at the same time, if the world threatens me or those I love, I find relief in the protection it gives me.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Aaron and Brittny with their Keltec Sub 2000, Glock 34, Glock 19, and Ruger Mark II

Aaron: My parents taught me to shoot, growing up in Utah. I got a gun here because we live in kind of a rough neighborhood and I take the subway home from work. I figured that since the bad-guys had guns, I should have one too.

Brittny: After practicing together and getting better, target shooting turned into a fun hobby that we could share.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

James and his Browning Citori copy and Hopi

James: I’m not really interested in guns. I don’t particularly like them. I was commissioned to do a sculpture of a duck hunter. Rather than make a gun out of clay, I just bought this one and made a mold from it. The bronze cast is in Missouri now, I reclaimed the body of the statue and I’m making something else out of it now. The gun’s been in a paper bag in my closet for years.