Houston, Texas, based photographer Shelley Calton recently decided to document the rising number of women who carry concealed handguns in a photographic series she aptly named “Concealed.” Calton is a native of the Houston area and recalls growing up around firearms; her father kept a pistol in the bedside table for home defense, and shooting tin cans was a common enough event which she participated in along with her two sisters. But as Calton got older, guns became less a part of her life, and it wasn’t until the day a rather concerning story was relayed to her that her interest was renewed.
The story that stirred her photographic interest took place in a hair salon: a woman visiting the salon was apparently carrying a pistol in her purse, and, somehow, a negligent discharge occurred, and the resulting bullet ricocheted around the room for some unknown length of time. Calton didn’t say why that story resulted in her deciding to draw attention to women with guns; my immediate reaction to the story was less than positive. For whatever reason the story inspired her, and photos from “Concealed” have been making their way around the internet.
Recent statistics show that, in the general population, just 15% of women own guns, and when you enter the gun world less than one-quarter of consistent shooters are women – and that’s a 51.5% increase since 2001. It’s fantastic more women are carrying guns. Women are definitely capable of becoming proficient shots and should absolutely learn to defend themselves instead of relying on someone else to always be there to shoulder that particular responsibility. And as an increasing number of women get involved with guns, a number of issues have cropped up, but there’s no way to get into them here. Today we’re going to focus on Calton’s photos.
The series consists of 28 photos. Of those 28, 1 photo is of a bookshelf with a blurry gun in one corner, 3 don’t appear to show any gun whatsoever (hence “Concealed”), and in a few it’s hard to see details. And then there are the photos I found truly frustrating.
In one photo a revolver is shown stuffed in a slot in one of those over-the-door cloth shoe racks. Hopefully the photo was just for show, but even if it was you can be sure some woman (women) are going to see it and think how clever that is, and replicate it as a storage method. And in another photo it looks like the gun’s muzzle is pointing directly at one of the two women pictured. This may not seem like much to you, but photos of blatant disregard for basic safety do nothing whatsoever to help any of us. And as much as those two bothered me, there’s more – and worse.
Seven photos depict women with their fingers hooked over the trigger of their gun. There’s no doubt about it: their fingers are touching go, their booger hookers are on the bang switch, their trigger fingers are getting ready to give someone or something a lead injection. You get the idea. And as I brace for those who will rush to the comment section to condemn me for what they will deem an overly harsh judgment, I’m going to explain why this is a problem.
We all know the golden rules of gun safety, one of which is…what? Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re on target. There’s a reason we keep that trigger finger straight and resting alongside our gun rather than bent and balancing on the trigger guard or, worse, on the trigger: safety. After all, accidents happen and the best way to stave off a horrific accident is by practicing safe gun handling techniques. It doesn’t matter how seasoned you are or how many years you’ve spent as a police officer, Grunt, or competitive shooter. You keep your finger off that trigger. And when we go ahead and show people practicing unsafe techniques in photos, we’re encouraging bad behavior.
Not only do those photos encourage bad behavior, they model it for people who don’t know any better, and many who will admire those photos are women. Women with little to no gun experience. They’ll see those photos and take it all in: the revolver “hidden” in the net pocket of the over-the-door shoe storage, the muzzle aimed at its owner’s legs, and, worse of all, seven women with their fingers on their triggers.
This may seem a small thing, and I know someone is tapping furiously at their keyboard right now, ready to jump on the “stop being overly sensitive” bandwagon. It isn’t being overly sensitive to be concerned about gun safety, and it’s absolutely logical to believe some uneducated person will emulate what they see in those photos because they don’t know any better and will see no reason not to imitate women whom they believe to be experienced.
It’s fantastic that more women are getting involved in guns. When I visit my local range right now I’m almost always the only woman present, and it would be nice to see that change. I always encourage women to get (safely) involved with guns, and I am deeply adamant regarding the importance of our handling our own protection. But let’s be safe about it, please. A little safety goes a very long way, and though some will see these images as harmless, well, you might be surprised just how much harm a photograph can do.
See it for yourself: Concealed