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.
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.
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.”
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.