Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guns, Not Butter

Some of the most eye opening things you discover aren't the things you discover at all, but where those things lead. Take books: I'm an avid reader, and always on the lookout for something new and different. In that pursuit, I plumb the usual places: Amazon's new releases, the New York Times Book Review, recommendations from friends and co-workers. And more often than not I come across the usual suspects: new efforts from Erik Larsen (very good), Neal Stephenson (in the middle of, but good so far) and Jeffrey Eugenides (on my list). But then I came across one from Linday McCrum... and it took me further.

McCrum is a photographer who divides her time between New York and California. Her usual business is portrait and fine art photography. But for the last three years her personal project has been pictures of women and their weapons. From the 280 sessions she's had, she gathers her 80 of her favorites into a book that sold out at Amazon on its first day, "Chicks with Guns."

The captivating photos include subjects you'd expect, such as women in law enforcement and competitive shooters. But it also includes a picture of Alexandra of Houston Texas, with a gun in one hand and her naked three-year-old baby boy in the other. Then there's the caption for the photo of Jen from Minnesota and her handgun: "Any girl would understand when I explain it was something I saw and HAD TO HAVE. Some women experience that feeling with clothes, some with jewelry. For me it was with a large firearm."

There's lots more of interest about the book and its topic that gets you thinking. Writes McCrum, "Gun ownership is a really serious and complex issue, and it deserves serious consideration. It deserves far more than sound bites geared toward people's fear and hate. This project is not about politics or policy. I'm not interested in glorifying anyone, nor am I interested in vilifying anyone. I was just really curious."

Now, you could leave it there. There is plenty to discuss and debate about the underlying issue, as well as the photography itself. But that's when I took the next step. In perusing the reviews posted for the book, I came across one by Kathy Jackson. A positive outlook, it wasn't her comments but rather her credentials that caught my eye. She, too, is an author, but with a dog in this fight: her paperback is entitled, "The Cornered Cat: A Womans's Guide to Concealed Carry." Even more, Jackson is the managing editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.

So off I went to their web site. A magazine celebrating the carrying of firearms unobtrusively, it has articles that cover every aspect of the topic There's "Concealed Carry for the Petite Woman," with tips for dressing so your Ruger blends in with your wardrobe. There's "The Challenged Shooter," with a discussion on hiding your Glock in your wheelchair.  And there's Jackson's own article on "Five Great Carry Finds." It reviews some of the latest trends in holsters and purses, including the Flashbang women's holster which suspends from the center of your bra for easy drawing, though "it proved difficult if not impossible to draw from the neckline, so don't look to this product to solve the dresses problem for you."

There're practical discussions as well, like Mark Walters' column called "Living an Armed Lifestyle." As he writes, once you get over the idea that there are indeed bad people in the world, and you have to be armed to protect yourself, you have to make a number of choices. This begins with such weighty matters as deciding whether to indeed break the law and carry a concealed weapon where it's not permitted. But it also includes such mundane choices as taking a stand and not buying Sticky Fingers brand BBQ sauce in the grocery store because "the Sticky Fingers restaurant chain won't allow law-abiding citizens in their eateries." And there are self-image questions as well: "are you willing to buy larger pant sizes to accommodate an inside the waistband holster?"

Here in the east coast megalopolis, where guns are generally equated with crime alone, this is eye-opening stuff. But dismissing it all as the dangerous pursuit of a small right wing contingent would be a mistake. For as McCrum says about "Chicks with Guns," she learned two lessons when working on her book: "The first is that on the subject of guns, nobody is neutral. And the other is that when you get outside of the blue-state cities, everybody has a gun."


Marc Wollin of Bedford shot .22 rifles in Boy Scout camp, but that's the extent of his firearm experience. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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