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December 31, 2012

Fully Loaded: the Gun Debate (and Political Violence)

Zed Nelson man w baby and gun

Targeting archival content that gibes with the times, the Getty Reportage Tumblr site posts this Zed Nelson photo from 1998 as both a visual reference and pictorial provocation as we engage this latest gun control debate. Nelson’s photo of this hard-gripping gun owner wearing the country radio t-shirt, the cammo pants and the glare couldn’t do more to stoke the fire, enhanced by Mike’s fully loaded quote: “It’s my constitutional right to own a gun and protect my family.”

What is cleverly sickening is how the photo subjects us to emotional violence. In the name of protection, we’re seeing the baby framed as a prop, an unwittingly counterpoint, even a hostage. (Notice where the baby’s eyes seem to be trained, by they way.) It’s not just the tension in that hand and that elbow. Though the gun is pointing forward of the child, the perspective and photographic proximity of barrel-to-cheek arms this photo with the almost indescribable tension that such a weapon could blow a head off.

What’s brilliant about the photo is how it’s red meat to both sides — that the child “gets it” if you take away the gun or leave it in Mike’s hand. But what’s even more brilliant posting the photo now is how much — whether we’re talking about gun control, the economy, or any significant political issue —  it captures the way the Congress and the political right is behaving, too. It’s not about deliberation and facts and finding solutions. It’s about a tense grip and a gun to the head.

(Edited conclusion 8:20 pst)

(photo: Zed Nelson for TIME)

  • bystander

    I honestly don’t know which is worse. The emotional violence of your featured image, or the tentativeness and uncertainty of this one. Or, these. I can’t genuinely tell you which is my greater nightmare. All in the name of protecting children? It’s insane. Simply insane.

  • Dave McLane

    “It’s about a tense grip and a gun to the head.” Note that no fingers are near the trigger which follows both NRA and IDPA safety rules. Thus IMO, the look can equally suggest “Be forewarned, I defend my kid”.

    • LanceThruster

      As far as safety rules go, *if* the gun discharged by accident (should it actually be loaded), the position of the baby is horrible. No hearing or eye protection, let alone having it deal with the shock of the report and the potential for further injury as the baby squirms.

      To my eyes, everything about the picture looks wrong (as in dangerous and bone-headed…let alone the emotional response it elicits).

  • black_dog_barking

    That may be the right way to hold a gun, finger off the trigger until showtime, but it is not the right way to hold a baby. Support his head! Put the gun down, stick it back in your pants, whatever, but use both hands so baby suddenly squirming doesn’t end up baby falling on his head. Baby needs his head more than daddy needs his gun.

    • Dave McLane

      Since the baby is wearing shoes and is sitting upright, I think the fragile age has come and gone. My daughter stood up and walked at 6 months. Just look at those eyes looking straight at the camera, just like dad’s. Hardly a babe-in-arms.

  • EG

    Here is a national petition for who is interested on having Senator Feinstein impeached for violating her oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States:


    This is a petition to have Mrs.Feinstein tried for treason:


    Please sign today, and write your elected representatives!

    Please note Mrs.Feinstein isn’t trying to repeal the 2nd Amendment with the due process set forth in the constitution, but by proposing a LAW that will circumvent and nullify a right granted to the people in the constitution.

    The very same constitution she sworn to support and defend.

    • LanceThruster

      Hell, I think the entire Congress and elected leadership have violated their oath to protect and defend the Constitution with just about everything they’ve done post 9/11. I feel that was orchestrated to be able to further bully citizens and foreign nationals alike, but am not sure if the latest tragedy is just them being incredibly opportunistic to do more bullying (since the ’scary Mooslims’ story wasn’t getting us in line sufficiently to buy into their lying and treachery wholesale) or what.

  • EG

    FBI murder report by weapon for 2011, Expanded Homicide Data Table 11:

    * Total murder victims – 12,664
    * total firearms murders – 8,583
    * Handguns – 6,220 victims
    * Rifles – 323 victims (The so called “assault weapons” are rifles)
    * Shotguns – 356 victims
    * Knives or cutting instruments – 1,694 victims
    * Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.) – 496 victims
    * Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.) – 726 victims

    This data tell us that in 2011 a murder victim had:

    * 524% more chances to die from a stab wound than from a rifle.
    * 225% more chances to die from a punch or a kick than from a rifle.
    * 153% more chances to die from a hammer or baseball bat than from a rifle.
    * Of all murders 2.25% are committed with a rifle.
    * Of all murders 2.81% are committed with a shotgun.
    * Of all murders 5.73% are committed with hands, fists or feet.
    * Of all murders 13.37% are committed with a knife or cutting instrument.
    * Of all murders 49.11% are committed with a hand gun.

    Seems to me a lot of people who ask for a rifle ban have their priorities quite confused.
    Seems to me that by eliminating the least offensive guns, a precedent will be established to ban all guns period.

  • EG

    Why is it that Americans are made to feel so guilty about their 2nd Amendment rights, when a lot of victims of mass murders are in European States with very restrictive gun laws?

    Recent mass murders in Europe, all of them occurred in gun-free zones and in some Countries where guns in the hands of civilians are outlawed:

    * Zug, Switzerland, Sept. 27, 2001: A man whose lawsuits had been denied murdered 14 members of a cantonal parliament.
    * Tours, France, Oct. 29, 2001: Four people were killed and ten wounded when a French railway worker started shooting at a busy intersection.
    * Nanterre, France, March 27, 2002: A man killed eight city-council members after a council meeting.
    * Erfurt, Germany, April 26, 2002: A former student killed 18 at a secondary school.
    * Freising, Germany, Feb. 19, 2002: Three people killed and one wounded.
    * Turin, Italy, Oct. 15, 2002: Seven people killed on a hillside overlooking the city.
    * Madrid, Spain, Oct. 1, 2006: A man killed two employees and wounded another at a company that had fired him.
    * Emsdetten, Germany, Nov. 20, 2006: A former student murdered eleven people at a high school.
    * Tuusula, Finland, Nov. 7, 2007: Seven students and the principal killed at a high school.
    * Kauhajoki, Finland, Sept. 23, 2008: Ten people shot to death at a college.
    * Winnenden, Germany, March 11, 2009: A 17-year-old former student killed 15 people, including nine students and three teachers.
    * Lyon, France, March 19, 2009: Ten people injured when a man opened fire on a nursery school.
    * Athens, Greece, April 10, 2009: Three people killed and two injured by a student at a vocational college.
    * Rotterdam, Netherlands, April 11, 2009: Three people killed and one injured at a crowded café.
    * Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2009: One dead and 15 wounded in an attack on a Sikh temple.
    * Espoo, Finland, Dec. 31, 2009: Four people shot to death at a mall.
    * Cumbria, England, June 2, 2010: Twelve killed by a British taxi driver.
    * Oslo, Norway, July 22, 2011: 77 people killed by Anders Behring Breivik.

  • Dave McLane

    Perhaps so, but how does a gun discharge without something puling the trigger? As for the “emotional response it elicits” that comes from the mindset of the person viewing the image, not simply a function of the image itself. If the emotional response was caused solely by the image, it would elicit a similar response in every viewer, which is doesn’t. As Pogo said so long ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    Or in the long form, “Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle. There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us. Forward!”

    Pogo’s been around for more than 50 years, time to catch up …

  • LanceThruster

    You said – “Perhaps so, but how does a gun discharge without something puling the trigger?”

    Seriously? How do guns fire that aren’t even loaded? Oh yeah, that happens when the one holding it only thought it wasn’t loaded.

    I mean, what I don’t know about firearms could fill a book but there are all sorts of potential failures that could result in a misfire (bad ammunition round, hair trigger, shooter/weapon bumped in an improbable (but completely possible manner).

    Like I said…everything about that pose looks bone-headed (from my perspective). The emotional response is the one *I* get seeing a baby put in potential jeopardy for no good reason (other than the photo).

    I thought the late Michael Jackson screwed up holding his baby from over a high-rise balcony railing.

    Just because nothing bad happened (like he didn’t drop it or the baby not freak from a rush of vertigo) doesn’t mean it wasn’t an idiotic thing to do.

    The weapon might be a replica or non-operating and that would might be not so bad, but you cannot convince me that holding a loaded weapon right next to an infant’s face is an intelligent thing to do (particularly with reassurances of how “safely” the weapons owner is doing it), but that’s just me. YMMV.


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