Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Law Is The Law. What's Your Weapon Of Choice?

"I consider the ownership of arms not only a right, but the duty of a free people to themselves and future generations." – Dan, from 'Armed America' (What maybe concerns me more, is Dan's collection of Domino's boxes in the corner of his little white, gun-laden room.)

Portrait from 'Armed America'
Photographs by Kyle Cassidy


On the Friday morning ferry, I sat down in front of a man reading the a 2007 Gun Guide — a catalog of fire arms from the dainty Derringer to the (should never be used anywhere but war, and even to that note, there should be no war) AK-47. (Another side note to that: I'm sure that there were bigger guns in that guide also, but just the fact that somebody was reading this on my usually quiet and peaceful morning commute, may have distracted me from the plethora of other weapons of choice.)

Anywho ...

We were talking about guns (I was WAYYY out of my league here, but you've got to be social on the boat, you know) and where the hell one might use such devices — when he turned to a particular page showing knock-down/put-together models of some type of rifle.

"Where would one ever use something like that?" I asked, a little mockingly, because, (Sheez!) I can understand the right to hunt for deer and moose, and occasional squirrel (An island thing, which I REALLY DON'T understand), but, this was a compact, 'assemble-it-as-you-need-it' firearm. "Really!" I continued, "Really! Where in the hell could you justify needing that?"

"Pilots use them when they get shot down behind enemy lines. It's easy to build, and they get to protect themselves," he responded, without a hint of sarcasm.

"Behind enemy lines?"

"Yeah. You know, when their planes get shot down."

"What the hell have you been watching?" I asked, laughing, as I turned to pour another cap of coffee from my thermos, and to find something else to distract me from our further discussions of wartime weaponry and tactics.

"It's true," he said, leaning over my shoulder, getting in the last word.

I let him have it — plugged in my Shuffle — and wrote this down.


"Fuck me, hold tight. What's that?"

"It's me belt."

"No, Tommy. There's a gun in your trousers. What's a gun doing in your trousers?"

"It's for protection."

"Protection from what? "Zee" Germans? What's to stop it blowing your bollocks off when you sit?"

– Dialogue between Turkish and Tommy, 'Snatch' (2000)


"The question of gun ownership in America is a fractious one. Even the number of guns in the country is in significant debate. The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country's largest pro-gun lobbying group, quotes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE)'s estimate that in 1999 there were about 215,000,000 guns in America and one gun in about half of the households in the country. The Brady Campaign (the nation's leading anti-gun coalition) estimates there are 192,000,000 guns in America, owned by 39% of the population.

This isn't a book about guns. It's a book about people.

Whether it's 39% or 50% of Americans, it's still an awful lot of people. I started wondering just who they were, what they looked like, and how they lived. Such was the genesis of Armed America: Portraits of American Gun Owners in Their Homes. The idea was to photograph a hundred gun owners, in their homes, and do a gallery show. I figured this would take about two years. But very soon after I started, it became evident that my ambitions were too low. My mailbox flooded with letters from people I didn't know wanting to participate – I realized that I could probably photograph a hundred people in two months, but it wasn't a number of people that was important, it was their stories – a cowboy in Texas, a survivalist in Montana, a deer hunter in Pennsylvania, a sheriff in Georgia, a soldier in Idaho.... What I really needed, I realized, was to get moving, to drive across the country and find America somewhere between here and there."
– Kyle Cassidy, Introduction from 'Armed America'


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."

Jean: "I hate guns. Don't get me started."
Jean and Fleming, from 'Armed America'


"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

– Jules, quoting Ezekiel 25-17, 'Pulp Fiction', (1994)


In Our Gun
(Buy: Gomez: In Our Gun)

Elephant Gun
(Buy: Beirut: Lon Gisland EP)

Weapon Of Choice
(Buy: Fatboy Slim: Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars)

Weapon Of Choice
(Buy: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Baby 81)

(Buy: Porno for Pyros: Porno for Pyros)

Ezekiel 25:17
(Buy: Pulp Fiction: Pulp Fiction: Music From The Motion Picture)

(And, for those of you that are free of arms.)
(Buy: Red Hot Chili Peppers: One Hot Minute)

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