Why I Carry a Gun
Ten Americans discuss the role that guns play in their jobs
By Cindy Huang --
Why do people carry guns? After countless gun violence tragedies, the national debate over gun rights has saturated the political, social and moral conversation in America.
At the PBS NewsHour, we've attempted to capture this conversation from many angles. We've covered gun control, the effect of gun violence in our communities and efforts to scale back violence. We've broadcast the stories of people whose lives were shattered by guns, and the arguments of gun rights advocates.
But for some Americans, guns are a part of the daily toolkit—considered a standard accessory, like a cell phone or a hammer. We set out to find a cross section of people who rely on guns to make a living, and learn about the relationships they have with their firearms.
Below are the stories of ten Americans who carry guns.
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The Avocado Farmer
Susan Williams lives alone on a semi-remote avocado farm, and relies on her father’s .38-caliber pistol to protect herself, her two dogs and her crops from coyotes and thieves.
She uses her gun as a last resort to scare away the animals, she said.
“We have coyotes, rattlesnakes and packs of dogs that roam around,” Williams said. “The coyotes I’ll shoot near if they try to come at my dogs or me, because they don’t seem to respond to yelling and throwing rocks at them.”
Transporting bins that can hold $4,000 to $5,000 worth of fruit, she says she doesn’t want to take any chances.
It was Williams’ dad who taught her how to shoot, and her cousin who taught her how to shoot pistols.
“My attitude, and indeed my cousin’s attitude, is that if you can’t get it with one shot, then you shouldn’t be shooting,” she said.
A shotgun, a pellet gun, and a .38-caliber pistol.
“It can be $4,000 - $5,000 worth of fruit, and you don’t want to be sitting out there when some bad guys come by, and they’re willing to hurt you.”
The Casino Slot Machine Driver
Charlie Meyers, a former casino slot machine driver, carried a pistol on the job because he valued his life over his payload. For two years, he worked for a slot machine company and drove machines transporting as much as $250,000 mostly in coins from casinos in Las Vegas, Reno and across Nevada to a central “drop location.”
It worried him that people who worked at and frequented the casinos knew his van, his route, his schedule and the sheer amount of money involved. So he took his personal safety into his own hands.
“It was kind of on the wink and nod system where the company, for insurance reasons, could not--or chose to not--require or issue firearms, but it was pretty well understood that if you chose to bring your own, they would look the other way and claim that they knew nothing about it,” he said.
Meyers grew up steeped in gun culture, he said. Like everyone in his family, he was given his first .22 single-shot rifle on his eighth birthday. So carrying a gun was a natural choice.
“Once you get out into the middle of Nevada, there’s a long time before anyone can help anyone,” Meyers said, adding, “I’m sure as hell not going to go down trying to protect somebody else’s money.”
Sporting guns, hunting guns, shotguns, rifles and handguns including a Ruger P89 pistol.
“I’m sure as hell not going to go down trying to protect somebody else’s money.”
The Bear Guard
Michael Donovan’s job is to scan the horizon for bears in a far flung corner of Alaska’s North Slope, 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle. He carries a 12-gauge shotgun, sits on an ATV or snow machine and works as a guide, protecting scientists and others from the animals.
“The first thing is sighting [the bear.] Then you have to push it away,” he said.
Guns aren’t just for protection in Barrow; hunting game is part of the lifeblood of the place, and different animals require many different weapons.
“Up here, we have so many multiple animals that we hunt,” he said, citing whales, weasels, squirrels, seals and geese as examples. “We can’t just utilize one gun. There’s multiple calibers for multiple game. If they took the gun away from us, I guess we’d go back to bow and arrow.”
“We have guns for geese, we have guns for for eiders, seals, bearded seals, walrus, the list goes on and on.”
Brant Ratcliff first encountered gunsmiths at an Old Western theme park near his childhood home in Elkhorn, Kentucky.
The park, which he describes as having “an old gold-mining, cowboy-type theme”, also featured glassblowers and blacksmiths. He recalls traditional gunsmiths building rifles, an old rifle range and the beauty of the weapons.
“Some of the most beautiful pieces of woodwork I’ve ever seen have been attached to a firearm. There’s a lot of craftsmanship there,“ Ratcliff said.
But it’s a form of art that he fears is dying.
For five years, Ratcliff worked as a contract gunsmith for the military, and he now builds custom firearms for people, ranging from $1,500 to $10,000.
“People think that a soldier maintains his own weapon,” he said. “He doesn’t. A police officer doesn’t maintain his own weapon. They have armorers, they have gunsmiths, they have people who do that so they can do their jobs.“
Semi-automatic pistols, single-action revolvers, bolt action rifles, semi-automatic rifles, single-shot rifles, lever guns, muzzleloaders and shotguns.
“I’m afraid that it’s a dying art, and it’s sad. And part of the reason it’s sad is people think there’s no impact on them...Maybe my freedom, maybe my security depends on somebody being educated about these things [guns].”
The Hunting Instructor
When Steve Hall was six years old, he shot himself in the tongue with a BB gun. The gun fired accidentally as he was trying to unscrew the muzzle with his teeth to clean it. The BB became lodged in his tongue.
He was rushed to the hospital, where a doctor removed it with pliers.
“That probably ingrained in me some sense that if you’re not responsible, you’re going to have an accident,” Hall said. “And it could be a type of accident that could be dangerous.”
Now a hunting instructor for 30-plus years, teaching safe hunting to reduce firearms accidents is central to his job. He is also executive director of the International Hunter Education Association, which oversees 67,000 hunting instructors and 730,000 students nationwide.
His advice: “When your child gets interested in firearms, teach them to use guns and put them in a gun safety class, whether you want them to have them or not. They will get their hands on guns one way or another.”
12-gauge shotguns, 20-gauge shotguns, big bore rifles, and .22-caliber handguns.
“When your child gets interested in firearms, teach them to use guns and put them in a gun safety class, whether you want them to have them or not. They will get their hands on guns one way or another.”
The Insurance Agent
Zachary Crotts, an insurance agent, carries a 9mm handgun with him when he travels across North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina to meet his clients.
He is ex-military, has a hefty build and is often mistaken for a police or probation officer. As such, he says he worries about his safety in certain neighborhoods.
“It is a scary feeling when you get out of your car and you’re approached by five or six people that you’ve never met who want to know what you’re doing in their neck of the woods,” he said.
He has also encountered armed robbers twice: once while on the job, and once while eating with his children in a restaurant. He describes the restaurant encounter:
“The only thing I could do was get my daughter on one side of the table and behind me with my son and block them with my body just in case something did happen,” he said. “Hopefully my chest would block a bullet before it got to my children. Those different incidences are what has caused me to be an advocate for guns.”
Rifles, handguns and shotguns.
“It is a scary feeling when you get out of your car and you’re approached by five or six people that you’ve never met who want to know what you’re doing in their neck of the woods.”
In his 26 years in law enforcement, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith has carried a Glock pistol every day he’s been on duty, but has never fired it.
“Ever since I’ve been 21 years old, essentially I’ve carried a firearm almost every day of my life in the course of my duty, whether it’s a handgun, a shotgun or a rifle,” he said. “They’re the tools of the trade for a sheriff, especially for a western sheriff.”
And he believes the importance of guns in his county extends beyond law enforcement. The jurisdiction that Smith patrols includes homes located high in the Colorado mountains, where people are without immediate access to police.
“They can call 911, but it could still be an hour or two in the most severe emergencies before a deputy sheriff or anybody could get there to help them,” he said.
Bottom line, he said, is they may need to protect themselves.
“We essentially see no reason that a citizen -- an honest, law-abiding citizen -- should be less armed than my deputies are,” Smith said.
A semi-automatic handgun, a Glock pistol, an M4 Carbine rifle, an AR-15 rifle, revolvers, lever-action rifles and World War II guns.
“We essentially see no reason that a citizen -- an honest, law-abiding citizen -- should be less armed than my deputies are.”
The Firearms Instructor
Eric Jones teaches firearms defense to law enforcement officials, military personnel and teachers, among others. But the best part of his job, he says, is empowering elderly women to “stand up for themselves.”
“There is some empowerment to, for example, taking an elderly lady and teaching her how to shoot and teaching her that she can shoot and be accurate with the firearm,” he says. “And giving her that feeling of knowing that she has the great equalizer in her hand, and she can protect herself against the 250-pound body builder.”
Last year, Jones founded his own firearms training business called Armed Mindset. Courses that he teaches include basic pistol, tactical pistol and tactical carbine classes. And outside the shooting range, he said he carries a gun 95 percent of the time.
“I carry my handgun out of love,” he says. “Love for my own life, love for my daughter’s life, and love for the innocent bystanders around me, should somebody else want to come and do harm to them.”
An M1 Garand rifle, a carbine rifle, World War II collectibles rifles, muzzleloaders, .22-caliber handguns, shotguns, and modern sporting rifles including AR-15s
“There is some empowerment to, for example, taking an elderly lady and teaching her how to shoot and teaching her that she can shoot and she can be accurate with the firearm.”
The Private Investigator
A serious back injury sustained during a drug raid left Donna Anthony, a private investigator, unable to “wrestle bad guys.” It also forced her to quit her previous job as an Alaska state trooper.
Anthony’s Kimber 1911 pistol was a retirement gift and has her name engraved on the barrel. In 2011, she founded her own company, Alaska Investigation Agency, where she works as a private investigator. She doesn’t always need the pistol, but carries it during certain cases -- while working in remote areas of Alaska, for example. And she carried it while interviewing witnesses for a recent drug-related homicide investigation.
“When I’m interviewing those types of witnesses - they’re gang members, they have a history of having weapons or assault behavior - so when I interview them, I am armed,” she said. “I’m not showing my handgun. It’s concealed, but it’s there for my protection.”
“[Gang members] have a history of having weapons or assault behavior,” Anthony explained.
A Colt AR15 A3, a Glock 27 pistol, a Glock 23 pistol, and a Kimber 1911 pistol.
“There are times we can go remote out of the cities, and there’s no phone service and you never going to know the demeanor of the person you’re going to make contact with.”
The Private Security Guard
For Jeremy Ault, having a visible weapon serves as a deterrent in dangerous situations. People are less likely to give an armed guard a hard time, he said.
“It works both ways to where I feel comfortable to where I know I could defend my life if there was a need for it, but also it deters any type of serious provocation,” he said.
He describes the toughest post he had: working security at a Greyhound bus station. There, he had confrontations with passengers who were intoxicated and high on drugs, including heroin -- one of which required him to draw a weapon.
He carries about four magazines on him at one time, he said.
“I need as many rounds as I can to sustain until law enforcement shows up,” Ault said.
Beretta 92FS handgun
“People have more of a chance to give a hard time to an unarmed security officer than an armed one.”
Posted: September 10, 2013 comments powered by Disqus