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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"I grew up in the heart of West Philly--45th and Westminster ... It's still pretty rough around there," he told Cassidy.

Argentinean-born 3-D graphics artist Diego Muya recently moved from South Philly to Haverford. "I'm into fast cars, loud music and loud guns," he says. He expounds libertarianism with a convert's zeal, explaining how private companies would do a much better job of running the parks.

Muya has his guns laid out on the table. One is a bolt-action Argentinean-made Mauser rifle from the 1890s he's sure "has a few bodies on it."

If anything besides gun ownership unites these Philadelphians, it's certainly not politics.

Patrick Rodgers is a registered but not entirely convinced Libertarian. He articulates the NRA line on gun control carefully and concisely. He argues eloquently for the right to bear arms, quoting historical precedents and skillfully linking the right to bear arms to other rights closer to liberal hearts.

Donley thinks Michael Nutter's stop-and-frisk policy will lead to racial profiling. Layton thinks Republicans aren't real conservatives, and disagrees with the NRA on a range of issues, but thinks "they're our 800-pound gorilla on Capitol Hill."

Punk rocker Chris says he's all for gun control, as long as his gun is taken last.

Bash, perhaps only half-jokingly, says Philly's murder rate would be reduced if illegal gun owners "learned to shoot straight."

"It drives me insane that we have this many murders," says Layton, "particularly this many murders where criminals are using guns. It's a real horrible thing and a horrible pain in the ass, and I hate lying in bed at night and hearing gunshots and wondering if bullets are going to come flying through my window. That sucks. But making sure my neighbor can't buy a gun isn't going to stop that."

And then there's 30-year-old Joshua Koplin, a rifle and pistol owner who's lived most of his life in Philly, and designs humanitarian robots for the Pentagon. He's also designed his own gun--but decided not to market it.

He wonders how the AK-47's inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov feels about his legacy. Or Uziel "Uzi" Gal--who died of cancer in Philadelphia in 2002.

"My grandfather helped design the atom bomb," says Koplin. "That's enough."

Koplin says he has "somewhat complex views" about the gun issue politically. "I own guns, and carry one sometimes, but actually believe in gun control, and am not a right-wing Republican gun nut with a generator and a cache of beef jerky, waiting for the second coming."

The NRA, says Koplin, is using images of "jackbooted government thugs kicking down your door ... to create a pseudo gun culture on the deep end of the right wing, where you have this weird, paranoid, antigovernment fortress mentality against the liberals who are gonna come and take away your guns. I think that's dangerous."

"You'd figure it would be the antigun people who'd be out to portray the gun owners as insane. But then you go to a gun show, and it's all there in front of you. It's pretty scary. The swastikas, the Nazi memorabilia, the white-separatist stuff. Some of the rhetoric is absolutely insane. And that makes gun owners look really, really bad."

Koplin--who makes his own wine and cheese--probably isn't a typical Philly gun owner. But which of the individuals interviewed for this article is?

The Second Amendment notwithstanding, you suspect Philly's gun owners would make a lousy "well-regulated militia," but a kickass party guest list.

Steven Wells ( is PW's arts and entertainment editor.

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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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