I also believe the NRA mantra that it is not guns that kill, but people pulling the trigger.
So i made this picture at a parade recently in rural Pennsylvania where I have chosen to live and work. I like the pace of life here. I wasn't built for high speed. This image, when I took it, shocked me. I have a dear friend who made a picture years ago covering war abroad that she made in the back of an patrol vehicle with very real guns and ammo charged and ready to go. This photo of mine isn't even close to her image, but it is remarkable similar in some ways. This is a combat position.
So, I'm a journalist, and despite what the current feeling is for journalists, I believe in the ethical responsibility of our position in our community.
I am eyes and ears.
I am witness.
So I saw this, I documented and I thought about it.
I had heard just a few remarks from people on the parade route, but nothing shocking as this man tossed candy from a moving vehicle with a loaded magazine inserted into an AR-15 (he said there was no bullet in the chamber and I have to believe him on that)
The comments were more like "only in Rocky Grove," or "nice, typical redneck America." No one was overly shocked to see a man carrying a supposedly loaded gun in a parade tossing candy to children.
We ran a little story in the paper a few days later. I dug in to find this man and the organization that was in the parade, the Pa. gun owners association. I was able to contact the president with the help of others and learned this mans name and got a chance to talk to each of them.
Both are nice men who talked to me openly about their beliefs in the 2nd amendment and the man in this photo, Dan Stephenson talked openly to me about why he was riding in the back of this van tossing candy. He has some physical difficulties so he chose to ride instead of walk to toss candy to the children and families along the parade route.
So, I observe. I question, I seek out the meaning, I report.
I wasn't sure what to do with any of this. This is a hot topic. I sought guidance from my news editor, my nephew who is a very knowledgeable gun advocate and owner and some friends. My friends, who are varied were split, but most were appalled by this image.
(to be fair, a still image allows reflection so much more than a video or just watching)
My news editor was stunned this was happening in a local parade.
My nephew, who I thought would defend his right to bear arms and say I'm a liberal hippie freak disconnected said this.
"I've always been against open carry in this manner. While i believe in ones right to possess a firearm at all times, i think doing it in this way polarizes people and hurts the cause. If he had a holstered pistol on his hip and the rifle in the truck he'd be just as prepared but less threatening to those on the fence about "the gun issue"."
This is something that is key to the issue I think. And I'm not condemning
Mr. Stephenson here. But there is understanding of the overall message.
Here in Rocky Grove Pennsylvania the right to bear arms means someone can carry loaded guns in a moving vehicle tossing candy and its completely normal!
Again, I do believe in the right to bear arms even though i wish not to do so at this point and time.
A parade is a naive place. We show up to them in the most unencumbered ways. Yet we see things and get influenced.