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By Lee Williams

The images are disgusting: a crying woman with an AK barrel in her mouth, children pointing guns at their own heads, a toddler pointing a GLOCK with their finger on the trigger – lots of photos of children with fingers on triggers.

These are stock images, known in the trade as photo illustrations, because they are set up in advance, as opposed to actual news photographs, which are taken live as news happens.

Not only do the images violate almost all of the basic tenets of gun safety, they portray gun handling that’s life-threatening, and they clearly exploit the children involved. Most of the images could never be used by a newspaper or legitimate website, as they depict suicide attempts and far worse.

Access is easy. These stock photographs can be searched and browsed for free and purchased individually for a nominal fee or through a paid subscription. There are no age requirements or other safeguards in place to protect children from viewing these dangerous images.

They’re offered by several firms, the largest being Shutterstock, Getty Images and Getty’s discount subsidiary, iStock.

These stock photo companies have massive archives and a broad reach. Getty maintains an archive of 415 million photos and other digital assets from more than 340,000 individual contributors. Getty’s iStock brand has 125 million photos in its archive. Shutterstock offers more than 300 million photos from more than 1 million contributors, and operates in more than 150 countries.

Theirs is a multi-billion-dollar global business. It’s e-commerce on a massive scale.

Shutterstock

All of the stock-image firms say they support press freedom, cultural awareness, creativity and the rights of their contributors, but none of them were willing to discuss their stock photos depicting exploited children dangerously mishandling firearms.

Neither Shutterstock nor Getty Images or iStock returned calls or emails seeking comments for this story.

Similarly, none of the major organizations representing individual photographers were willing to comment for this story, including: the National Press Photographers Association, the American Society of Media Photographers, American Photographic Artists and the Professional Photographers of America.

‘Toxic’ for children     

Dr. Roy Lubit MD, Ph.D., is board certified in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and forensic psychiatry. He is an expert at evaluating emotional trauma in children and adults (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). He has served as an expert in criminal and civil sexual assault cases, civil rights cases and psychological/psychiatric malpractice cases. Dr. Lubit has strong opinions on these stock photos.

“I think it is best if children are not exposed to pictures of violence or pornography, and especially to things that involve other children. It’s problematic when people become desensitized to images of violence and inappropriate behavior, and it can also be very scary and upsetting,” he said.

“Adults have slowly learned about the problems of the world and can deal with it, but for children, it will be much more shocking to see violence and much more likely that inappropriate images could impact their opinion of what happens in the world. And certainly, images of children with firearms could be very scary for them.”

Dr. Lubit is not alone in his opinion.

Dr. Helen Grusd is a licensed clinical psychologist, past president of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association and a past board member of the California Psychological Association’s Division of Clinical Psychology. She is a Certified Forensic Consultant by the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, and has worked on cases dealing with PTSD, sexual harassment, car accidents and psychological effects of alleged negligent surgery. She works with children, adults, and adolescents.

Dr. Grusd, too, has strong opinions of the stock images involving children and firearms.

“I think they’re very dangerous. I think children are very vulnerable, and when they look at a picture, they see it over and over again. It’s stored in their memory banks, and they think it’s okay. I don’t know if there are voices in their lives to say that they’re precious and that life has value. I don’t know if they think it’s funny or fun, or if they offer a sense of power over their environment, in which they feel helpless, or if they come from a culture – mostly teens – where they have to prove they’re okay if empowered,” she said.

“If they’re depressed, they might think it’s okay to use a gun … You don’t use violence. You don’t fight back with guns and violence. You should fight back with strong words and strong action. These images are toxic.”

Unified reaction

While the stock-image companies were all unwilling to address their dangerous photographs, gun-rights and Second Amendment organizations were united in their outrage.

Shutterstock

“I find these images incredibly disturbing – they could become weapons themselves if viewed by young children,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb. “The media is clearly profiting by promoting gun violence, which is something they have accused the firearms industry of doing for years.”

“If you want to talk about an ‘epidemic of dangerous gun use,’ the blatant disregard for basic gun-handling safety standards by thousands of so-called professional photographers and every single major image licensing service is shocking. AmmoLand News has paid subscriptions with iStock, Getty, and others but it is very difficult to use almost every one of their images depicting firearms as they promote careless, if not life-threatening, gun misuse.” said Fredy Riehl, Editor-in-Chief of AmmoLand News.

“It may be a toss-up as to what is more detestable: these gruesome images or the Bloomberg apologists and other gun control lobbyists who squeal like stuck pigs whenever they see an NRA picture with an adult and a child practicing safe and responsible firearm handling,” said Marion Hammer, former president of the National Rifle Association and current NRA board member. “The double-standard is glaring and the gratuitous promotion of gun violence is disgusting.”

“The firearm industry has known that many in the media harbor a bias against firearms and it is a rare occurrence that firearm ownership is framed in a way that shows responsible ownership. Depictions of children mishandling firearm and even negligently pointing them at themselves or one another is reckless and only serves to drive a political agenda to vilify guns and gun owners,” said Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“This is frustrating because if runs counter to the good that the firearm industry is doing through Project Childsafe. That program has brought partnership with 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states to distribute more than 40 million free firearm locking devices to ensure that firearms remain beyond the reach of those who shouldn’t haven them, including unsupervised minors. That program has been praised by the Government Accountability Office and the National Safety Council for the efficacy in reducing the negligent misuse of firearms to historic lows. That’s just one aspect of the Real Solutions campaign the firearm industry is leading to bring true gun safety to America.”

“I think it’s best that people know that the majority of firearms owners are not Elmer Fudd. We are not out there trying to do stupid crap with guns. We are the most law abiding, rule oriented, safe practiced conservationists that exist. When we take photos, we know they’re portraying the lifestyle that we enjoy,” said Thomas MacAulay, executive director of the Professional Outdoor Media Association.

Best practices

The Professional Outdoor Media Association, or POMA, seeks to “foster excellence in communications at all levels, help members build their businesses, connect media and industry, promote fair and honest communication of the traditional outdoor sports and conservation stories, and mentor the next generation of traditional outdoor sports communicators.”

POMA recently established a list of best practices for creating photographs and videos that involve firearms.

The organization stresses safety first, and a “rigid adherence to basic firearm safety protocols.” POMA also offers guidance on the use of minors and prohibited persons in photos with firearms.

Before the photo shoot, POMA recommends:

  • Keep all weapons under strict control and out of the reach of minors, models, and assistants.
  • Make sure all weapons are clear or unloaded and free of ammunition before bringing on set.
  • Never have ammunition on-site or on-set. Live fire shooting being the exception.
  • Keep all weapons in locked containers before, after, and during the shoot or when not in direct use.
  • Individual weapons should have cable-style gun locks. Cable-style gun locks are available for free for the asking across most of the USA.

POMA also publishes weapon handling safety basics:

  • Do not touch the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
  • Keep firearms pointed in a safe direction.
  • Only point a firearm at something you intend to shoot.
  • Make sure that you positively identify your target before pulling the trigger.
  • Always know and verify what is beyond your target before shooting.
  • Treat all firearms as if they are loaded.
  • Before using any firearm, read its instruction manual and understand how that firearm should be handled.
  • Ensure that your barrel is clean and clear of any debris. If debris is found, ensure that it’s completely removed and the barrel is clean before firing.
  • Inspect and check your ammunition. There are many types of ammunition and using the incorrect type of ammunition in the firearm can lead to death or injury.
  • Keep your firearm unloaded when it is not in use.
  • Do not run, jump, or climb with a loaded firearm.
  • Firearms and ammunition should be stored separately.
  • Do not use drugs or alcohol before or during the usage of any firearm.

Many of the stock images involving firearms violate the basic rules of firearm safety, POMA points out.

“Keeping a firearm always pointed in a safe direction includes not pointing it in the direction of the photographer. Often, we’ve seen images of firearms staring directly down the bore of the barrel. This clearly goes against this basic rule,” the organization states. “Never point firearms at other models, yourself, or anyone else during the media shoot. All weapons should be ‘pointed down range’ meaning in a direction that has nothing you intend to ever shoot.”

Criminal liability

Craig Schaeffer is the chief assistant state attorney for Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit and a seasoned prosecutor.

“The photo of the man simulating using a gun while holding a baby in his arms, and an apparent minor with a handgun pressed to his temple are particularly disturbing images,” Schaeffer said. “Using children in these types of photos or to advance a platform could potentially be a form of child exploitation or neglect, depending upon the jurisdiction.”

 

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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.

 

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Seems like some pearl clutching here.

    I would be willing to believe a lot of these “guns” aren’t real but imitations of the real thing. A point that is missed in the above especially considering the cost, liability and regulation involved with having real firearms on a set. No one flips through stock photos if they don’t have to or they’re looking at the clickbait the MSM calls news these days.

    I would be more concerned about the liklihood that a ton of these companies are probably promoting gun control and are utter hypocrites for profiting off firearms while promoting the end of their use and avilibility.

    • Not so sure if those guns are replicas. It’s pretty easy to modify a real gun and turn it into a dedicated static prop by simply removing the firing pin.

  2. We all know there is NOTHING too low or disgusting for the anti’s to push their agenda! With the liberal media’s help, they just might succeed.

    • Yep, make them adhere to their own rules.

      The only problem is it only works when you have the MoFo Media on your side to hype the issue. And we certainly don’t.

  3. A kid sticking a pistol to his head or lady eating an AK, yeah those are disturbing. But even worse apparently are the finger guns. We need to get Shannon in here to discuss gun safety with finger guns. There are too many finger guns on the street. And I don’t see any serial numbers or warning labels, so these are untraceable ghost finger guns. We need to license and regulate finger guns before more acts of gun violence like these occur. Worst of all, notice the color of these finger guns…. Yep, white. These finger guns are symbols of systematic racism and oppression. Only these privileged people get to use finger guns. We need equity!

    • You would think a mom demanding action would love a finger gun, finger guns are only useful for one thing…

    • Over 700,000,000 finger guns in the U.S. (15.8 billion world wide) unabated, unregulated and apparently loaded and in battery within arms reach at any time all the time… The horror of it all….

  4. It is nothing but propaganda promoting Gun Control. And of course propaganda is inherent with Gun Control as are slave shacks, lynchings, burning crosses, freezing trains, concentration camps, gas chambers and hell on earth. Picture that.

    • “slave shacks, lynchings, burning crosses, freezing trains, concentration camps, gas chambers and hell on earth”

      sounds like propaganda.

  5. Infants’ minds are a blank slate; adults a well-filled in slate. Children’s and adolescence relatively blank.

    Where a child grows up in rural areas by the time he might see such an offensive picture he is apt to have seen in life or pictures hunting and target shooting. The pictures would be much less upsetting; indeed, he might recognize that they depict something which is obviously wrong.

    Conversely, to a child with no normalized exposure to firearms, such a picture could ‘normalize’ suicide/violence. Such a child is apt to grow to adolescence and adulthood with little to no constructive exposure to firearms; in which case, the only exposure that has registered is apt to be such a picture as described in the OP.

    These publishers have a 1A right. And arguably, that right trumps common sense about exposing children to images which they aren’t prepared to process.

    I wonder where the Cancel Culture is on instances such as this. The urge to “Cancel” one case of speech/press is intense but very selective. What’s the agenda here with gun suicide/violence images? Is the Cancel Culture withholding it’s vitriol in the hopes that such objectionable images will promote the suppression of the right to arms? Are children’s minds and sensibilities to be sacrificed on the alter of gun control?

    • “I wonder where the Cancel Culture is on instances such as this”

      no need to wonder. their only moral compass is themselves. their only moral standard is, “whatever materially benefits us or materially harms anyone who is not us”. whatever does that at any given moment, they’re for it. whatever does not do that at any given moment, they’re against it. and they’ll flip-flop between support and opposition second by second if necessary, even in the same sentence if appropriate, and feel no sense of hypocrisy – because for them there is none. everything is about them. the universe is about them. god is for them. they are at the center of it all.

    • “These publishers have a 1A right. And arguably, that right trumps common sense about exposing children to images which they aren’t prepared to process.”

      would you show these images to your own children?

      • And herein the Leftist authoritarian ant7 reaches the crux of the issue. No, you twit, I wouldn’t – but that’s MY decision. You, as the authoritarian Leftist you are, want “the gummint” to abridge others’ rights because YOU think what they are doing/saying is “wrong”.

        I think it’s wrong, too – which is why I wouldn’t let my children look at such trash. But I sure as HELL don’t want “the gummint” limiting what I can look at, or show my children if I choose to. Not exactly rocket surgery, there, ant7 – but perhaps it is, for a Leftist fascist.

        • “the Leftist authoritarian ant7”

          (laugh)

          “No, you twit, I wouldn’t”

          would you let other people show them to your children?

          “But I sure as HELL don’t want “the gummint” limiting what I can look at”

          the real question is who is to be government – you, or something else.

    • “Are children’s minds and sensibilities to be sacrificed on the alter of gun control?”

      gun control is not the alter. their control over everyone else is the alter, and they are to be the object of worship.

      • @MarkPA
        I really, really don’t want to be a grammar cop….
        Altar ˈôltər/
        noun: altar; plural noun: altars
        -the table in a Christian church at which the bread and wine are consecrated in communion services
        -a table or flat-topped block used as the focus for a religious ritual, especially for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity.

  6. “a crying woman with an AK barrel in her mouth, children pointing guns at their own heads, a toddler pointing a GLOCK with their finger on the trigger – lots of photos of children with fingers on triggers”

    the goal is to propagate the meme that this is what happens when “the left” is not in total control. “you can’t live without us.”

  7. I think that someone should give Biden a real gun and let’s see what happens.
    “Here Joe, put this in your mouth.”
    Oops!

  8. One thing I’ve been wanting to do, if I can find the indoor time, is to make really hard hitting posters/memes against gun control. Some have been done before such as the rape victim laying dead in the street ect I have my own ideas on content. Way back when, I was pretty good with photoshopcs3, before adobe became a subscription service. Maybe this winter I’ll pursue.

    Point being that we must fight on the same battlefield as the gun-grabbers. They use images, we should too. Images and statements that go to the heart of what it is to be disarmed.

  9. People are really sick. The nation has been plummeting down the slippery slope of degeneracy since the 60s.

    • “People are really sick”

      the subversives are sick. the people are poisoned. get rid of the subversives and the people will be fine. “where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” proverbs 26:20

  10. “to make really hard hitting posters/memes against gun control”

    look up second-stage wwii propaganda from the soviet union. not the initial, like the one portraying the handsome man with the caption “be like this worker. produce more for the front.”, but like the one portraying the babushka crouching over her child while threatened by a swwaastika-festooned bayonet with the caption “save us red army!” the boolsheviks are masters of propaganda (satan is the father of lies) and you’ll get some great base ideas from it.

  11. What’s the difference between Porn and these pictures??? Seriously. Or B & W pictures of dead people from WW2. And those pictures are in elementary school text books. The normalization of gross disgusting and obscene images began decades ago.
    The 1960’s “free Love” time I believe.

    btw
    What about the “emotional trauma in children and adults”!!!

    No Libertarian Liberal or Leftist has ever carried about that. Their response has always been, IT’S THE 1st Amendment”
    “Get over your puritan outdated feelings.” Unless its a dispaly of water color paints by Adolf Hitler. Then the hypocrite three L’s will not be so supportive of the 1st amendment.

  12. If the “gun community” was really serious about defending gun rights then they would use pictures of blacks burned at the stake, or hanging from trees, to show just how important individual gun rights are.

    Just like the Christians who show pictures of aborted children.

    No one seems to have a problem showing pictures of dead jews or dead people in Cambodia.

  13. Free speech, enough said. Too many dumbasses on this site!!! You as a responsible gun owner knows better. You can’t fix stupid, usually its self curing. Nature has a way of culling out the waste.

  14. The notion of stock photo companies promoting ‘gun violence’ for profit is concerning and highlights the need for ethical considerations in media. Let’s strive for responsible representation and meaningful storytelling, fostering understanding and empathy, just as the intricate details of each Manok Na Drawing evoke emotion and appreciation.

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