Photo: Kyle Cassidy / Armed America
Documentary photographer Kyle Cassidy traveled over 20,000 miles around the country to find out what gun owners look like and why they have chosen to buy guns and keep them in their homes.His riveting essay became a book, Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes, which was published in 2007.
We are publishing some of Cassidy’s “everyman” portraits of armed Americans and their views on gun ownership here, courtesy of the photographer.
Cassidy published a new book this year, War Paint: Tattoo Culture & the Armed Forces, which portrays the culture of tattooing among servicemen and women.
Howard: I love history and I love old mechanical devices -- guns are both. I also enjoy target shooting.
Howard with his C. Sharps Arms Co. Model 1874 in .45-70
Stan with his Taurus PT38s .38 Super
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.
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
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.
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.
Joseph with his Remmington Model 700, 7mm Magnum
Joe: 'The first time I was introduced to guns was when I was 5 years old; hunting with my dad, grandfather and uncle. I remember my dad shooting a ringneck pheasant and a rabbit. I carried those two animals until I thought my arms were going to fall off. As a little guy, that made a great impression on me. I've hunted all of my life; in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Colorado and Maine. I have a tremendous respect for life, especially wildlife. It never ceases to amaze me how much satisfaction I get from just simply being in the Great Outdoors, whether I make a kill or not.'
Jim: When I was diagnosed with cancer I found myself and my family in need of protection. I was too old to fight, too sick to run, and since cancer took my vocal cords, I couldn't yell for help. I purchased my first ever firearm.
Jim and Nicky with his Taurus .38 snub nose special, Colt 380-Auto, Pony Pocketlite and Sig Sauer P232 .380.
Aaron: My parents taught me to shoot, growing up in Utah. I got a gun here because we live in kind of a rough neighbourhood and I take the subway home from work. I figured that since the bad-guys had guns, I should have one too.
Aaron and Brittny with their Keltec Sub 2000, Glock 34, Glock 19, and Ruger Mark II
Brittny: After practicing together and getting better, target shooting turned into a fun hobby that we could share.
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 mould 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.
James and his Browning Citori copy and Hopi
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.
Beth, Paul, Gavin and Emma with 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.
Dan: I consider the ownership of arms not only a right, but the duty of a free people to themselves and future generations.
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
Fleming: I never take more animals than we can eat. I think, in a way, a gun, if it's used properly, can be a tool to teach good citizenship. Because it teaches people to be frugal, to not be wasteful, and above all, it teaches people not to waste our heritage; take what you need, but don't take any more.
Jean and Fleming and his Winchester .410 model 42
Fleming: I was born and raised 12 miles down the road from where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed and killed -- this was in 1935. As a result of that incident, Northern Louisiana gained a reputation for being a very violent part of the world. And indeed, everybody -- that I knew anyway -- had at least two guns; a shotgun, and a .22 rifle. But these weapons were looked upon mostly as implements for harvesting food, mutch like you do with hoes, rakes, shovels, and things like that. Because they were used to take wild game. And in a country at that time where there was no electricity, no trains to speak of, you couldn't buy anything. If you didn't grow it or kill it yourself, you didn't eat. So everybody that I new of, went out to hunt for food and shells were expensive -- it was on the edge of the depression, shortly before World War II and people learned to practice gun economy, i guess you would say. People took care of guns, guns were cherished ... and you didn't mess with somebody's gun. They were used as something to acquire food. That was all they were used for. This business about people shooting each other -- that has come about, I think, as a result of money being introduced into our culture. Some people didn't have any, and some people wanted some, so they went out an 'liberated' it.
For me, it's a sport. I don't go very often, but when I do, I enjoy walking in the woods. I never take more animals than we can eat. I think, in a way, a gun, if it's used properly, can be a tool to teach good citizenship. Because it teaches people to be frugal, to not be wasteful, and above all, it teaches people not to waste our heritage; take what you need, but don't take any more. I like to see kids, out in the woods, doing what they do, in a way that is responsible. The more contentious among us all take their children out to the woods at a very early age and let them practice woodsmanship.
Jean: I hate guns. Don't get me started.
Jerry and Colin and their Browning Citori's.
Colin: My dad taught me to shoot when I was five or six and it's how we still spend time together. He's a terrible golfer, but he's a great shot. We've definitely bonded over the years shooting sporting clays. What's the alternative? You go over to visit, Bar-B-Q and watch TV?'
Ashley: There are few things that beat a good day at the gun range, but the biggest reason I own firearms is because it's my right as a citizen of the United States of America and I refuse to take my rights for granted. Anyone that reads any history at all knows how dangerous that can be.
Ashley and her Springfield 1911 .45
HT: I own guns for the same reason that I own fast cars and fast motorcycles. Something about the mechanical aspect of riding, and driving and shooting and tinkering with these machines that appeals to me. They appeal to me -- that's pretty much it.
HT with his Colt Python, Colt M1917, SW M29, SW M1955 Target
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