Friendly Fire

Everyone knows lots of Philadelphians are armed. But not all of them are criminals.

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Aug. 1, 2007

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Meet Patrick the vampire-fanged goth entrepreneur; Joshua the humanitarian war-robot designer; Bash the dreadlocked metal guitarist with the scarred-over bullet hole in his left hand; Joel the Mt. Airy surfer dude; Diego the Argentinean 3-D artist; Kenyatta the cigar aficionado; and Chris and Cecilia--ass-kicking, trash-picking, guitar-and-sewing-machine-thrashing West Philly punk rockers.

All Philadelphia gun owners. Most of them featured in the recently published book Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes by Philadelphia photographer Kyle Cassidy.

And not a single Bible-thumping, bigoted, duck-fucking white supremacist militia son of a bitch among them.

Philadelphia is loaded with guns, both legal and illegal. Yet many of us live in a gun-free Philly. It's possible to spend your entire life here without ever seeing a gun that's not on a cop's hip, and never knowingly meeting a gun owner.

There's a Philadelphia that doesn't know guns. A Philly that thinks gun ownership is dangerous, obscene and absurd. What kind of freak chooses to own something designed to rip holes in other human beings anyway?

But there's another Philly.

And this isn't the Philadelphia we read about every time there's another homicide.

This is a third Philly. One with a loaded Glock in its waistband, and a shotgun and an assault rifle in the bedroom safe.

Stepping into the lives of Philadelphia gun owners is like entering a parallel dimension. At times it's surreal.


In balmy Clark Park, dogs frolic in the sunshine, butterflies flutter past, bees hum and the air is filled with children's laughter.

Bash, a soft-spoken dreadlocked thirtysomething tattoo artist and rock guitarist, is sitting on a bench, running through his personal gun lore. Like the time three guys in Atlanta--one with a handgun--made a 90-degree turn toward him with murder in their eyes, and how he ran to find cover so he could draw his own weapon, and was shot in the hand.

Armed Pennsylvanians from Armed America: Not a Bible-thumping, bigoted duck-fucking white supremacist militia member among them.

"It felt like being hit with a pebble."

He talks about his semiautomatic rifle--a fearsome-looking Bushmaster Carbon AR-15--and his Glock. With his hand in a pistol shape, he makes a point about firepower and aesthetics. About a yard away, a little girl and her mother talk about ice cream.


Sometimes it's fun. Standing in the Gun and Archery range at Eighth and Ellsworth, pecking away at a knife-waving paper skeleton with a fully loaded AK-47 is a blast.

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1. gunholsters said... on Jan 20, 2009 at 07:12PM

“Interesting group of people. One thing about gun ownership, both legal and illegal, is that it crosses all typical boundaries like race, religion, economic status, etc. Every visit to my local gun show features an interesting cross section of society. I saw a priest (collar and all) buying a handgun at the last show. It takes all kinds to make the world turn.”

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