Photography by Lauren Lyon

November 06 2015

Guns are a tool for hunters‚ farmers and conservationists‚ and provide among the most humane way of killing predators‚ destructive species, and animals for food. They can be used to deter violence‚ to enforce laws‚ for personal protection or for securing borders. Guns help fight back against oppressive or corrupt regimes.

To some‚ especially in America‚ they are the invisible tensioners that keep polite society intact—a nervous but effective system of checks and balances without which‚ many believe‚ the fragile abstraction of ‘freedom’ would crumble.

Though we don’t see them in mainstream advertising—and in many countries can’t buy them at all as civilians—guns are big business around the world. Weapons producing na- tions like Italy‚ Russia and the United States trade in multibillion dollar contracts with far less stable countries—Libya‚ Venezuela‚ Syria—saturating them with firearms and thus creating even larger markets: you’d best have a gun if your enemy does.

Guns decide who pays bribes. Guns reinforce borders. Guns keep oppressive or corrupt regimes in power.

In the United States alone‚ there were over 270 million private guns in 2012. At a population just north of 300 million‚ that’s nearly one gun per person. In 1993‚ an all-time high of 18‚000 people were murdered by guns in the US. By 2013‚ that number had fallen to just over 11‚000‚ yet still accounted for about 70% of murders. Even more died in gun-related accidents. Guns are always the most effective method of suicide.

Guns are inscrutable‚ exacting and meticulously designed. Guns are inanimate objects.

Glock  17 9mm
Austria, 1979
Semi-automatic pistol

It was the first gun with a plastic polymer frame to be commercially successful and is one of the most popular guns for law enforcement in the world.

Remington 870 Express
United States, 1951
12 gauge pump shotgun

Marked by its “home defense barrel,” the shortest barrel length allowed by law. Meant for close-range shooting—i.e. “home intruders.”

Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum
United States, 1934
Magnum revolver

General George Patton called the .357 Magnum his “killing gun.” The Treasurer of Pennsylvania killed himself with one on live television in 1987.

Walther PPK S 380 ACP
Germany, 1931
Semi-automatic pistol

Has appeared in almost every Bond film. It is also the gun Freddie Prinze committed suicide with.

Spain, 1957
Semi-automatic rifle

Normally purchased piecemeal and assembled at home.

Smith & Wesson .38 Special
United States, 1898

Both the most commonly-used gun in murders and crimes in the United States, as well as the most stolen gun in the United States.