“I was given a 10-minute induction, and then we took four guns into the range,” British photographer Jane Hilton reports at theguardian.com, “a pump-action shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, a Glock [police-issue pistol] and a .44 Magnum revolver, which is what Clint Eastwood used in Dirty Harry. I was terrified, especially when they told me you must never pick up a gun and turn around to talk to someone. My hand was shaking. I’d never held a gun in my life, and I couldn’t believe someone would give me live ammunition.” And here’s how Ms. Hilton chose to present “American gun culture” to her hoploophobic homies in The Land of Hope and Glory . . .
The experience gave Hilton an idea for a different sort of shoot. She cultivated the owners of the range, and made several further visits to take photographs. But she didn’t photograph the club’s patrons – she felt that had been overdone. Instead, she photographed the targets after they had been shot up.
“On that first visit, I couldn’t believe the poster targets. They were extraordinary, non-PC targets, all beautifully done – characters that looked like Muslims, a thuggish-type burglar, a man with a hostage. All the people got choose what they want to shoot at.”
Her point being?
“To me it was a bigger statement to interview the shooters, take away the targets that they’d shot at, and bring them back to London and photograph them. I felt it was a more interesting comment on American gun culture to see what damage it can do to a body than any photo of a man and a kid holding a gun.”
Hang on. The targets were made out of paper, not flesh and blood. Anyway, I’m sure her audience will be appropriately appalled. The rest of us, however, may have a thing or two to say about the Americans’ marksmanship or the obvious lack thereof, although we don’t know the distances involved.
I wonder if Ms. Hilton passed on targets with better groups (so to speak) so as to highlight bad shooting? Anyway, just in case Guardian readers were left wondering “what’s the big deal?”, writer Stephen Moss puts the boot in (as Brits are wont to say). Like this:
One of the teachers she met at the range slept with three loaded weapons in his bed. Let’s hope he doesn’t toss and turn too much. In a preface to Hilton’s book, gun-owning novelist Richard Ford says gun owners are as likely to shoot themselves or an innocent bystander as a hoodlum who is threatening them. “Guns – no matter who has them – are always seeking an opportunity to go off,” he writes. In that sense, every American is a target.
For British condescension? Absolutely.