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My name is Ben Philippi. I’m a professional photographer, producer and journalist.
Over the last two and a half years I’ve driven over 40,000 miles to every corner of America to photograph and interview notable and responsible firearm owners to make a book called We The People. It celebrates the diversity and beauty of The Second Amendment like never before.
For too long the media has painted us firearm owners in a negative light and I’m tired of it. I believe that we are one of the most misunderstood groups of people on the face of the planet. We are good, honest, responsible and hard-working citizens who own firearms for all of the right reasons.
We The People is an inspiring and thoughtful book that breaks the mold of how the public views us firearm owners. It proves once and for all that there is nothing wrong with owning a gun. In fact, if you’re not already a responsible firearm owner, you’ll want to become one after reading it.
Enjoy these sample images and texts from this much anticipated book We The People due out in fall 2015.
Frank DeSomma, President of POF-USA, and his sony Cody photographed at the POF-USA factory in Phoenix, Arizona by Ben Philippi
“Live Strong, Live Free.
Free Men of Free Will, Bow to No One.
Freedom breeds Innovation, let Freedom Ring!
Our Constitution is the bedrock foundation that guarantee’s our individual right of choice. Freedom!
Our Second Amendment was never about the right to hunt as today’s ignorant politicians want us to believe. This Right was written into the Constitution to ensure that We the People always have the right and means to defend and fight against tyranny. Today’s political leaders are aware of this but would rather be our dictators telling We the People what we can and can’t do. This is the essence of why the Second Amendment is a right of the people to exist.
The Constitution , the Bill of Rights, is the reasons why we are all free in America. This is why people from around the world travel to be part of this great nation to live free. No other nation in the world offers the freedoms we have in America. Our forefathers were brilliant men, who put freedoms and liberties of the people and for the people in these critical documents. Our individual freedoms and liberties are the essence of why America is the greatest nation in the world.
Show me one nation or society that advanced mankind like the USA did in less than two hundred and fifty years of existence. There isn’t any. China, the Middle East, Africa are societies that have been around for thousands of years. They never achieved what the USA did in less than 250 years of existence, because there is no freedom of the people in their societies. Freedom is the reason America is great.
Our individual right of choice allows all in America to chase their dreams! I’m thankful to have been born in a country that is free, and thankful and will always remember the men and women who sacrificed everything including their lives in the protection of our freedoms. If it was not for these freedoms I would have never chased my dreams and aspirations. My duty to my countrymen is to ensure that the freedoms they fought for don’t perish. To my dying breathe I will preach and promote to our young the greatness of our country, our freedoms, our Constitution and Bill of Rights that guarantee their individual rights. To my dying breathe I will defend my country, our freedoms, our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
So live strong, live free, and chase your dreams. Don’t let life go by doing nothing. Go chase your dreams and live life to its full potential.
God Bless America.” – Frank L. DeSomma
- Frank L. DeSomma, (left) president of Patriot Ordnance Factory, photographed with his son Cody at the POF-USA factory in Phoenix, Arizona. Frank sports a POF-USA 10.5″ full auto P416 in .223/5.56X45 firepower. It weighs 7 lbs and has an ambi-controlled lower with E-Squared chamber feature. Cody sports a POF-USA 12.5″ full auto P308 in .308/7.62X51 firepower. It weighs 8.25 lbs and has an ambi-controlled lower with E-Squared chamber feature.
David A. Clarke Jr., Milwaukee County Sheriff, photographed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Ben Philippi
“As Sheriff, when I raised my right hand and put my left on the Bible, and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, I damn well meant it.
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. That language is as clear to me as the phrase, Congress shall make no law, written into the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The original intent of the First Amendment was meant to be absolute, just like the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, and only in the last 50 years, the Second Amendment has come under attack from misguided forces, including our courts of law.
The gun figured prominently in two early freedom movements in the US. The first was the Revolutionary War and the second was the Civil War.
According to writer Charles C. W. Cooke, today’s African-American, intentionally separated from their history by the anti-gun Left, has a distorted view of “the black tradition of arms” and the role the gun played in the civil rights movement. Many took up arms to defend their lives, their families and their property.
Civil rights champion Ida B. Wells noted that rights without the backing of force are just words.
Asked what advice he would give newly freed slaves, abolitionist Frederick Douglass said: “A good revolver, a steady hand, and a determination to shoot down any man attempting to kidnap them.”
One of the hallmarks of slavery was that Blacks could not arm themselves for protection against mob violence even after the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment that freed them. The Fourteenth Amendment made the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense apply to newly freed slaves. That is when Black people truly started to participate in the rights and privileges guaranteed under the US Constitution.”
- Milwaukee County Sheriff David A Clarke Jr. photographed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin sporting his Glock 22 pistol.
Alan Gottlieb photographed in Bellevue, Washington by Ben Philippi
“I grew up in New York City where gun ownership is difficult because the laws are so punitive.
I attended college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In Tennessee, gun ownership was not demonized like it was and still is in New York City.
That gave me the opportunity to see the real difference between firearms freedom and what laws that restrict liberty really mean.
Gun prohibitionists do not want you to have the freedom to choose a means to defend yourself. They have no interest in making America a place where you are independent of the state for protection. Their extremism had become a direct threat to my future and that of my country.
Armed with this new found sense of direction, I joined Young Americans for Freedom and began a life of political activism defending the principals of individual freedom, limits on government power and the belief that government governs best where it governs least.
The more involved in politics I became and the more political philosophy I read, the more important it became to fight for more personal freedoms like the right to keep and bear arms.
No other freedom has been and is under attack like our Second Amendment Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
That is why I went to work for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and founded the Second Amendment Foundation.
For more than 40 years, I have helped to lead the Pro-Gun Rights Movement and further the principals of freedom and liberty that have made America the envy of most of the world and hated by those who thrive on denying power and individual freedom to the people.
A firearm is the number one symbol of freedom and liberty that exists on our planet. I am proud to have dedicated my life to fighting to protect what the right to own a firearm means to the liberty, safety and security of people not just in America, but world-wide.”
- Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, photographed at the company headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. He holds the commemorative 1911 produced by American Legacy Firearms honoring Second Amendment Foundations victories protecting our freedom.
Mr. Colion Noir photographed in Dallas, Texas by Ben Philippi
“The gun doesn’t have to be so polarizing, but people want to make it that way. People around the country have seamlessly integrated firearms into their already existing life style. The firearm doesn’t take over your life any more than a picture on a wall takes over your apartment or house.
The firearm simply becomes a part of what was already there.”
– Mr. Colion Noir, host of NRA’s NOIR sports his Sig Sauer Equinox 9mm.
Michael and DeAnna Madsen photographed in Malibu, California by Ben Philippi.
“There’s a western that was made many years ago by the director George Stevens. The actor in the picture is Allan Ladd. He plays a character named Shane and there’s one part in the movie where he’s talking to the woman and he says ‘A gun is a tool Marianne. No better and no worse than any other tool; an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it.’ And I think that’s true.
There are certain freedoms in this country that need to be embraced and understood.”
- Michael Madsen – Actor, poet and photographer, photographed in Malibu, California sports his Remington 870 Police Magnum 12 -gauge shotgun and DeAnna sports her Smith & Wesson model 686 .357 magnum revolver.
Regis Giles photographed in Miami, Florida by Ben Philippi
“I was about 9 years old when I became infatuated with guns after my dad decided to take me to the gun range to shoot his .22 rifle. I remember being terrified and dreading the ‘recoil’, but as I squeezed the trigger and the gun went off, I thought to myself, “This is freaking awesome!” From that moment on I knew I wanted more.
My next encounter with a gun was at target practice for a wild boar hunt I was about to partake in – my first hunt ever! The .30-30 Marlin had a little bit more of a kick to it than the .22 did, but I didn’t mind at all. I was ready to tackle the beasts of the wild and bring home some bacon (literally).
After that initial blood baptism, I knew I had been bit by the hunting bug. From the thrill of the hunt, to being away from the concrete jungle and shooting things that go ‘BOOM’, I loved everything that hunting had to offer.
This love affair has taken me far and wide, from Alaska to Africa, and has allowed me to tread on land that most humans have never seen before. I count myself incredibly blessed to have had those experiences.
Hunting also played a major role in exposing me to a variety of firearms; everything from those ‘ugly black guns’ to the finely etched, blue barreled double rifles.
As you can imagine, a hobby like mine can cost quite a bit, so at around the age of 18 I started my own company called GirlsJustWannaHaveGuns.com to help finance my ‘addiction’.
What started off as a T-shirt idea – designing and selling products that had my logo on them – transformed into something bigger than I could’ve imagined.
Combining my training from a young age in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu by the Valente Brothers and my knowledge and love of shooting, I decided to use GirlsJustWannaHaveGuns.com as a platform to encourage women to learn how to defend themselves. Since then, my website and I have been featured and interviewed by The Daily Mail, ELLE Magazine, Variety, CNN, FOX News, CBS & ABC.
GirlsJustWannaHaveGuns.com has grown exponentially, becoming quite a successful blog, and my website is now partnered with the nation’s top conservative media company, Liberty Alliance – and all of this pointing back to that first day at the gun range. #Winning.”
- Regis Giles, owner of GirsJustWannaHaveGuns, photographed in Miami, Florida with her 1895 Winchester chambered in US .30 Gov’t.
Chris Cheng photographed in San Francisco, California by Ben Philippi
“When my father first taught me how to shoot a gun at the age of six, I remember him teaching me a lot about safety and personal responsibility. Those simple life lessons have stayed with me through adulthood. When I read about some folks expressing shock that someone as young as six years old would be shooting a gun, I think about how their perspective is probably coming from a lack of knowledge and diversity in their lives. I was once that six year old kid shooting a gun, and I’d like to think I came out OK like millions of other gun owners. It’s important that gun owners are vocal and visible to help break down preconceived notions and stereotypes about our community.
As an openly gay American, I appreciate the similarities between gun rights and gay rights. Just as we want anti-gunners to leave us alone, we also want anti-gay proponents to leave us alone. Let us live our lives in peace. We aren’t causing anyone harm. Gun people and gay people are simply seeking safety, security, and happiness, like anyone else. As a principled nation, I’m confident that freedom will always prevail.
It’s my hope that speaking in support of freedom will help us retain and gain more freedom in America. I share my story and perspectives in my book “Shoot to Win” to help show that exercising our Second Amendment rights can have positive results. It sure changed my life where I won the title of Top Shot, a $100,000 cash prize, and an opportunity to walk away from a well-paying job at Google. Everyday, I am appreciative and thankful that I am living the American Dream. The Second Amendment community created the environment for me to succeed, and therefore I feel a responsibility to pay it forward.”
- Chris Cheng, History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 Champion and NRA News Commentator, photographed in San Francisco, California. He sports his Houlding Precision AR-15 style rifle with a Daniel Defense 18″ barrel with AAC muzzle brake and Magpul goodies. The scope is a Leupold Mk 6 1-6×20 CMR-W. The pistol is a Tier 1 Glock 19 modified by Salient Arms International.
Charlie M Blackmore photographed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Ben Philippi
“On a cold March morning, I was driving home after a 12-hour shift. As I came to a stoplight, I noticed a woman being assaulted on the side of the road. She was lying in a fetal position, completely helpless underneath a large man.
Little did he know, he was about to be confronted by a tired and now agitated Marine with 13+ means of giving him a dirt nap.
I parked my car and approached the scene to assess the situation. The perp was vulgar and advised me to mind my own. I reciprocated that I too am quite fluent in the “French language” and was not leaving. Now knowing that this was not going to be a peaceful discussion, I began to mentally prepare for the inevitable; a fight with a much larger adversary.
As he took his first step in the fresh untouched snow, he initiated his stance as the aggressor. Adrenaline now rushed into my system and I was given the power of suspended animation to make a move before his next step. If the perp gets to me it is end game for the victim. I was now liable to display my equalizer in this situation and I did.
He never made another footprint in the snow in my direction. He shook his head in denial and chuckled. Game over! No one else was going to get hurt, except him. It was his decision now if he lives or dies.
The moment I decided to intervene, that woman’s pain stopped and I very possibly saved her life. It is up to us to make sure our rights stay intact. My oath still stands; We The People affirm; don’t tread on us or we will tread on you.”
- Charlie M Blackmore, USMC Veteren, sports his Springfield XDM 9mm Compact with a 13 round magazine and Crimson Trace trigger guard laser shooting 147 Gr Hornady Critical Duty Hollowpoints.
Tana Leggo photographed in Louisville, Kentucky by Ben Philippi.
“There is nothing more satisfying than the feel of cold, hard steel in my hands! Guns are dangerous, exciting and even seductive…much like me! Interestingly, I grew up in a family that didn’t care for guns. They weren’t anti-gun per se, but guns were foreign to my parents due to their being uneducated about the subject.
After I became an adult, I started hanging around gun guys and gals. As a female, I’ve always been concerned about personal safety. The ex-military guys, who are my friends, talked to me about firearms. These were really good guys who I trusted educated, law-abiding, freedom loving folks, who were protective and concerned about my safety, so I took their advice.
The first time I held a gun, I loved it! It was sexy! It was empowering! After learning to shoot, I was hooked. I’m an independent woman, and guns reinforce that independence! I’m all about freedom! I’m actually quite liberal in the classical sense, truly being liberal means loving freedom, and guns make us all equal and truly free. I’m a 115 pound fashion model! A gun makes me equal to any potential threat. Like the old ad used to say ‘fear no man, no matter his size. Call on me, and I shall equalize.’
My philosophy toward self-defense was to choose one firearm and become an expert with that gun. My choice was the Smith and Wesson 60LS in .357 magnum. It fits my needs perfectly and being stainless steel, it always goes well with my wardrobe and accessories! When it comes to fun, I like to shoot just about everything, as my picture with the AK-47 shows! The modeling and entertainment world in which I work, generally is not a ‘gun friendly’ environment. Hopefully my enthusiasm, and showing other women how they can keep from falling prey to predators is having a positive impact!”
- Tana Leggo, model, photographed in Louisville, Kentucky sporting her Romanian-made WASR-10 AK-47 rifle with a 50-round magazine.
JoAnn Guidos photographed in New Orleans, Louisiana by Ben Philippi
“We stayed open during Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. Even though we took a couple of inches of water, we had generators and beer and protection. I pulled my guns out to let the scavengers know this wasn’t a place they wanted to be.
For the next week and a half the police, firemen, rescue workers all saw me with my guns out around my bar and none of them said a word. They knew I was protecting my business, my customers and my staff. We became the hub of the neighborhood because we were the only safehaven. Several times we supplied ice for nurses and caregivers for their patients. They told us later that we saved lives. And none of that would have happened if I hadn’t had my guns, because the police could only do so much.
Nine days after Katrina made landfall, an NOPD officer showed up and told us we had to leave. Mandatory evacuation. I told him ‘you come back here at five and we’ll go together.’ I never saw him again.
That’s when the U.S. Marshals came.
They pulled their M16s on us and told us to get against the wall. They came in and confiscated all my weapons. And by confiscated, I mean taken at gunpoint. I have never been able to recover any of my original collection but I have replaced them with new ones.
I’m a survivor. I lived through Betsy, Camille, Andrew, and Katrina. I know what it means to be a responsible well-armed citizen. My guns represent my protection and my freedom. I’ll be damned if I will ever allow my weapons to be confiscated again.”
JoAnn Guidos, owner of Kajun’s Pub, photographed in New Orleans, Louisiana sporting her AK-47.
Branden Spear photographed in Cambridge, Maryland by Ben Philippi
“History always repeats its self! During the 1920’s Hitler removed guns from people, look what happened…
The law to use a firearm in self-defense nowadays is so strict that you almost have to pause the situation and think ‘legally’ if I am at the point to legally defend my self. We are pushed to make sure we kill the burglar to avoid being penalized in court if we only wounded the person. Guns are restricted enough in this country!
‘If you can’t take the guns off the street and out of the hands of criminals, then you shouldn’t take the guns from rightful legal owners.’
I have a security alarm at home. The sign on front yard and windows is all you need 95% of the time to avoid being broken into, but the other 4% can be avoided by a simple pump of a 12-gauge shotgun and if that is not a enough, well then I am loaded and ready for the 1% of the time.”
- Branden Spear, owner of Spear Construction, photographed in Cambridge, Maryland, sports his Mossberg 930 Special Purpose 12-gauge shotgun. Behind him is The Patriotic House he hand-painted.
Dave Romero photographed in Chicago, Illinois by Ben Philippi.
“As an Officer in a major metropolitan city, I see the importance of the second amendment to the citizens of our country better than any politician can. On a daily basis I respond to calls of life threatening situations, many times our arrival is too late. It’s those times when I think, if this person was armed at the time of the attack, they wouldn’t be a victim right now.
Unfortunately Police departments across the country are understaffed and overworked, and with the changing economic times, violent crimes against hard working law biding citizens are steadily rising. The citizens of the United States have an absolute God given right to defend themselves, and resistance to oppression, so I thank our Forefathers for their amazing wisdom and foresight in creating the Second Amendment.”
– Dave Romero, Chicago Police Department Officer, photographed in Chicago, Illinois, sports his LMT AR-15 rifle.
Rusty Humphries photographed in Phoenix, Arizona by Ben Philippi.
“It’s very easy to allow emotion to get the better of you when talking about guns. If you’ve never been around them, they can seem very scary. TV, movies, the news, everywhere you turn you see guns portrayed in a negative way. I think we have turned into a nation of big weenies, far more interested in Lattes than Lugers, and if you choose not to arm or protect yourself, that’s your right, but with rights come responsibilities. I am responsible for my family and my property and we all have a responsibility to our posterity to protect this land for them.
One of the reasons our homeland has not been attacked, (other than with flying suicide bombers) is the fact that we have over 300 million guns in this country, with millions of men and women who choose to know how to use them. Thank God we still have some American’s with courage and fight left in them. That’s a hell of a deterrent for anyone to wants to take, by force, what is ours.”
- Rusty Humphries, media personality and political consultant, photographed in Phoenix, Arizona, sports his Winchester 1899 rifle and stands in front of his 1966 Chevy Impala.
The Cheney family of Battlefield: Vegas photographed in Las Vegas by Ben Philippi.
“Guns started out for me as a hobby with my friends. We used to build AK kits in the garage. We’d have build parties and when the build parties got to the point where I wasn’t sure if we were breaking any laws, I figured I better get a license and go the proper route. And it’s just grown from there.
I have 350 machine guns at Battlefield: Vegas. My whole family is involved. My son runs one of my retail stores, my wife is here with me and my little ones like to come in and mess with the guns and see who can field strip them the fastest or show daddy who’s better at them.”
- Ron Cheney, owner of Battlefield: Vegas, photographed in Las Vegas, Nevada with his family. (gun descriptions to come)
Jeff Zimba photographed near Fairfield, Maine by Ben Philippi.
“The whole issue of guns is pretty simple to me. We have a Bill of Rights, not a Bill of Needs. The opposition doesn’t understand guns so they develop a fear of these inanimate objects and hope they will just go away.
Well, neither guns, nor gun owners are going anywhere and it’s not really up for debate or discussion. Uneducated opinions don’t matter in the big picture. Simple stuff.
Every law-abiding citizen has the most basic right to self-preservation and a firearm is the great equalizer. Most people who carry a firearm are painted as crazed lunatics “looking for a gun fight” when the opposite is actually the truth.’ A well-trained person with a firearm is prepared to defend his life and that of his family in a situation he hopes will never arise.
It is no different than having a fire extinguisher in the home and automobile. No one is ‘asking for a fire’ but prepared for the unlikely event they may need it. It is the same thing as having a spare tire and a jack in the vehicle. No one is ‘asking for a flat tire’ but better prepared for the unlikely event of one and have the ability to get back into action in a reasonable time. Sure, you can walk the Earth defenseless and unprepared for anything and leave your safety to the responsibility of others, but gun owners are generally a little more forward thinking than that. It’s simple stuff. Others can be useless and unprepared for a bad guy, a fire and a flat tire and just call a policeman, a fireman and a mechanic, but their life will certainly improve if they meet with someone who does prepare for the unexpected while they wait for their ‘professional’ knight in shining armor to come to their rescue, when they get around to it. To my peers, NOT being prepared is selfish and irrational. Bad things WILL happen at inopportune times and tasking your safety to strangers by refusing to help yourself is just not an option. Being afraid of inanimate objects and pretending that nothing bad will happen to you, so you don’t have to deal with the burden of unpleasant real life situations that certainly do happen to “others” is a dangerous way to stay in a false comfort zone that doesn’t really exist.”
- Jeff Zimba: gun expert at The Bigshooterist, photographed near Fairfield, Maine. Jeff sports his POF-USA P416 with an LMT 40mm Grenade Launcher and stands in front of the Bigshooterist Test Facility Border Patrol Vehicle which started life as a simple Suzuki Samurai and is now heavily modified, with a gun mount, 62″ of off-road rubber, several inches of lift and 18″ of articulation to reach as deep as necessary into the dense Maine wood.
Justin Harvel photographed in Neosho, Missouri at the Black Rain Ordnance factory by Ben Philippi.
“My grandfather has been a gun dealer all of my life and even way before; he is 95 now and although rarely “deals” he still loves his guns. He lived back in the days when marksmanship was still taught in school. He promoted and hosted the first gun show in our town of Neosho, Mo. in the late 50’s and yes believe it or not it was held in the gymnasium of the high school! He always carried a sidearm and I remember that old Smith & Wesson .38 and the smell of the leather holster.
Both of my two uncles and my father also carried on that tradition proudly, of loving and dealing in guns. But again, they lived in an age where guns were still viewed as the heritages of a free society. They would take me shooting or hunting all the time and I remember the first time I shot a gun and the honor and respect i had for it. It was a right of passage it was just part of growing up and learning a new responsibility!
We’re entering a new age and despite opposition to firearms I am personally very excited. I see great things for the future of shooting sports and the industry and I’m proud to be part of it. We as a society need to focus on our youth to carry on the torch of freedom! This is our responsibility as parents and adults to teach our children good Christian values.”
- Justin Harvel, President of Black Rain Ordnance Inc, photographed in Neosho, MIssouri. He sports his Black Rain Ordnance Fallout-15 Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) in the Norguard Finish with a Black Rain Ordnance Aris .223/5.56 Suppressor, and an X-Products 50 Round Drum Magazine.
The Sumner family photographed at the Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point, Kentucky by Ben Philippi.
“My dad was inspired as a boy by Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. He sported his red cowboy hat and sheep wool chaps with cap pistols holstered on each side. That’s what started the love for guns in the Sumner family.
My Grandfather and Grandmother opened up a toy store/sporting goods/hardware store. Later on my Dad and Grandfather bought a piece of property (owned by the navy) at auction; that became Knob Creek Gun Range. Dad started the Range in 1964.
My brother and I would collect range fees for our allowance, as kids we grew up shooting guns and hunting at a very young age. As The Range grew, Dad started the machine gun shoot that evolved into the world’s largest machine gun shoot and military gun show, which is twice a year.
We also have a new TV series which airs on CMT called Guntucky. The show is based on our family business and our love for guns. Our motto is …… In guns we trust!! We must stand up for our 2nd amendment rights! Our forefathers put the 2nd want us to be subjects to a tyrannical government. This is a government for the people by the people, not a dictatorship or socialism. Make this stand so our children and their children will and can enjoy guns as we have!!
Good Luck and God Bless America!”
- The Sumner Family: owners of Knob Creek Range and stars of CMT’s Guntucky, photographed in West Point, Kentucky. Steven sports an M1A. Olivia sports a .30 carbine. Novi sports a Rossi .45 long colt. Erin sports a Keltec KSG 12 gauge. Biff sports a pair of Ruger Super Redhawk .44 magnums. Payton sports a Chiappa Triple Threat 12 gauge. Keri sports a Stoeger Uberti Revolving carbine in .45 Long Colt. Tracy sports a Mossberg Plinkster .22.
Dominique Carmen Bear photographed in Butler, Missouri with her daughter Xandra D by Ben Philippi.
“Growing up, my 1st stepfather was into hunting in a major way. My sister and I were given strict orders to NEVER EVER EVER touch the guns; to not even go near them. It was a fear that stuck with me.
Of course, I grew up, left home and eventually had boyfriends and friends who owned guns. Even then, I wouldn’t touch them. The years go by, I enter my 30’s and move back to Missouri. I’m pretty much surrounded by guns…and I discover all fear is gone and instead I’m fascinated!
I spent many summer afternoons target shooting with friends. I enjoyed shooting but never bought a gun. I didn’t think I needed one. When I turned 31, I had my daughter Xandra D. and everything was fine. But then it happened.
I was awakened by a noise in the night. It was 2AM. I’d fallen asleep on the couch. Xandra D. was in her crib in the other room. My sleep-muddled mind was confused. What was that loud ass banging?! My phone rings at the exact same time. It’s my sister screaming, “Someone is trying with all their might to kick in your door!” My heart started pounding as adrenaline poured into my system. I was terrified! I ran through the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife and charged into the bedroom. I knew if they came in, I was screwed but I had an 8 month old to protect! I positioned myself between the door they were STILL trying to get through and the bedroom. My sister, who remained on the phone with me, stepped outside on her porch and yelled, “Hey!” BAM! My patio light goes out. The intruder(s) ran away. I stood there frozen while my sister called the police.
After this experience, I no longer felt safe. I had nightmares and I kept waking up at night to every little noise. I patrolled my home, listening, scared. At first, I start sleeping with knives under my pillows, hammers and pepper sprays hidden throughout my home. But it wasn’t enough.
Finally I bought my first gun. A 9mm. Immediately, I felt safer, much more confident in my abilities to protect my baby and myself. Sleep has returned. I keep it loaded and within arms reach when I go to bed. Until someone has tried and/or succeeded in breaking into your home, it’s hard to describe the utter violation and fear it puts in your heart.
When it comes to my daughters well-being, there will be no warning shots.”
- Dominique Carmen, mother, photographed in Butler, Missouri with her daughter Xandra D. Dominique sports a High-Point 9mm.
Todd Causley photographed in Chicago, Illinois by Ben Philippi.
“I’m not here to tell anyone what to do, as I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. If I want to order giant steaks and ride around in my Cadillac Eldorado that burns a ton of gasoline, fine! But don’t tell me that I should have a little car that I can barely fit in. The same goes for my right own guns! Don’t tell me if I can own a gun or not. I truly believe in our United States constitutional second amendment right to bear arms. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t want anyone to hurt me. But do not take away the right for me to protect my wife and family. I love spending some time at the gun range. I really enjoy re-loading my own ammunition and I especially like cleaning my guns. There’s nothing better. We all should have the right to protect ourselves. I’m a freedom loving guy and I am an Individual!”
- Todd Causley, wiseguy, photographed in Chicago, Illinois sporting his Sig Sauer 556. He sits atop his 1984 Cadillac Eldorado.
For the second year in a row, God, Guns & Guts recently attended the Green Mountain Boys annual machine gun shoot at Camp David in Eden, Vermont. It was a great weekend. Thank you to everyone who organized it and attended.
I decided to bring model Alexandra Pilon down from Montreal. Ok, she turned out to be a little distracting on the firing line. But it worked out perfectly in the end. Everyone wanted to be photographed with her and she got to shoot some machine guns which she had never done before. Being new to the gun world, she was hooked. Best of all, she got to fire Dom Spano’s bad-ass M41 tank. How many people can say they’ve done that? Click on the link below to see the tank in action.
I invite you all to tune into the TV show I helped create and spent the last four months producing. It’s called God, Guns & Automobiles and it airs on History Channel Monday nights at 9C/10P. It was inspired by my book God, Guns & Guts and stars the man on the cover Mark Muller and his brother Mancow also appears inside. It’s an upbeat show that embodies the values and spirit of the heartland of America. You can watch previously aired episodes online here.
Below are a few of the photographs I took at the Green Mountain Boys annual machine gun shoot. Enjoy. Semper Fi. (click on the images to make them bigger)
The Williams Machine Gun Mafia.
Andy William’s patriotic tattoo.
Mike Garcia firing his MAC-11.
Andy William’s HK tattoo.
This gun was FAST.
The gang on Dom Spano’s M41 tank.
Rich Scheidel, Alexandra Pilon and Pete Spring.
Alex with a copy of God, Guns & Guts on the M41 tank.
Alex inside John’s Aces & Eights truck.
Evan Marcy and Alex.
I had a blast helping create and produce God, Guns & Automobiles for History Channel. Everyone on the cast and crew was amazing and I took a lot of photos during the four months it took to film Season One. (click on images to make them bigger)
Erich ‘Mancow’ Muller and Mark Muller. Two American badasses who star in the show.
Max Motors in Butler, Missouri where most of our filming took place. It is owned by Mark Muller. His brother Erich ‘Mancow’ Muller owns a percentage of the business. His ‘outlaw’ staff make up the majority of the secondary characters of the show.
Mancow is a popular radio host from Chicago. He brought a lot of excitement to the show.
Rod ‘Hot Rod’ Berry and Matt ‘Cowboy’ Harvey are two of co-stars of the show seen here in front of their Redneck Mars Rover.
Mark with Jason Claspill and Larry VanZandt who are two more co-stars. Jason is seen here wearing a dress for a scene. Strangely, he didn’t seem to mind wearing it.
Our show is about the American Heartland, doing the right thing and putting Real back in Reality. Our show is completely unscripted.
This photo was taken in December 2012 shortly after blowing up the car that you see in the introduction to the show. The explosion was spectacular. It couldn’t have been better and it was this moment when all us realized that this show was going to be great. In this photo is myself, Michael Kronish, Mark Muller, Austin Reading, Mancow and Adam Biggs.
Pictured here shortly before smashing each other to pieces in their derby cars is Mark Muller, Matt ‘Cowboy’ Harvey, William Myers and Rodney ‘Hot Rod’ Berry. William played a few roles in the show. He’s a great guy and hopefully he’ll become a more prominent character in season two.
In one of our episodes, Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady from the Brady Bunch, showed up to buy a car. It was great. He brought the Tiki Doll from the famous Hawaii Bound episode as a trade in.
BBQ master Mark Muller cooking some the best steaks in the world. He seared these chunks of meat and then sliced them into steaks. He cooked them to perfection for over twenty of his employees on a trip in the Ozarks. It was a great time.
Mancow behind the wheel of The Peaceful Warrior. This car was straight up Mad Max. If you revved the engine hard enough, flames shot out the mufflers.
Mancow and Mark with a rat rod Mark acquired during filming of the show. This thing was loud, fast and dangerous. It was a ‘metal coffin’ according to Mancow.
We filmed at the Butler Rodeo which was a lot of fun.
There are endless amounts of cool things to film in Missouri. A farmer will open his barn door to unveil a homemade tractor running 10,000 horsepower and worth half a million dollars. Here is Mark sitting behind the wheel of LD Nation’s work of art.
The Muller brothers about to get into trouble.
Mancow shooting fireworks at the unveiling of Big Max at Max Motors at the end of June 2013. This was a great night.
Big Max, a 50-foot high pistol wielding cowboy who has been the mascot of Max Motors since day one.
Some pretty girls and soldiers posing at the MMA fight that happened at Max Motors on June 8th, 2013.
Brandon ‘Mongo’ Huckaby on the right facing up to Kevin Woltkamp shortly before the MMA fight at Max Motors. Mongo is a co-star of the show and an incredible internet salesman. These two guys put on a spectacular fight for the heavyweight title that had us all on our toes. You’ll have to tune in to the episode 10 to find out who won. It was a spectacular night.
Rodney ‘Hot Rod’ Berry about to get the Max Motors logo tattooed on the back of his head. Mark offered him $20 dollars more to suck on a baby pacifier while it was happening. Can’t remember if Rod did. It’s possible.
Some of our rockstar crew; Chris Carter, Jason Hafer and Patrick Monroe photographed in Dale Douty’s scrapyard.
More of our rockstar cast and crew; Jason Claspill, Austin Reading, Jon Ailetcher and Devin Golub.
A group shot of almost the entire cast and crew of God, Guns & Automobiles taken shortly after the MMA fight.
The pretty landscape of Missouri. This is the town of Sheldon.
Mark with his good buddies Maximus and Lola.
Mark Muller on the cover of the photographic art book I published in 2012 called God, Guns & Guts. Mark wrote the introduction and is also featured on the cover. Mancow is in the book too. My book inspired the show and showcases contemporary American gun culture in a bold unapologetic light. You can pick up a copy on Amazon.
Over four years, covering countless states and even more miles, journalist and photographer Ben Philippi toured America in search of the millions of legal gun owners who, everyday, proudly defend their constitutional right to bear arms. The resulting collection of photographs, God, Guns and Guts, is now in your hands: a hundred and forty four beautiful and intriguing images of freedom loving American gun owners.
Excited by how “limitless freedom can be when every man and woman is afforded their right to arm and protect themselves” Philippi has nevertheless sought to produce a collection of photographs both unbiased and true to the diverse social fabric of American gun owners today. Setting out “to make as beautiful an image as possible, and to let the subject express themselves through a short quote” it remained important to him to represent “in colorful and celebratory terms, a culture often portrayed as controversial and negative by the mainstream media”.
Set between photographs of the inspirational landscapes through which he traveled, Philippi has collated the results of his encounters into this remarkable book, a body of work that mirrors the exceptional beauty, pride and singularity of this great country itself.
See more at http://godgunsgutsbook.com
This is the only wildlife I saw when I traveled to West Africa in 1997.