There’s been no shortage of appalling gun rampages this summer, considering the shootings at a Toronto mall or backyard BBQ, the Batman shooter in Colorado, or the racist lunatic who shot up a Sikh temple during his fucked up skinhead wet dream. If you’re a legal gun owner or enthusiast you’re shit out of luck when it comes to positive PR, especially when it seems like everybody with a gun and a mental illness is turning their weapons against innocent people every other day. That’s why when photographer Ben Philippi published his latest book God, Guns & Guts, a visually striking celebration of proud, legal gun owners across America, we knew we had to talk to the man who spent close to four years among gun-toting patriots. What he found was a group of welcoming people who shoot magnums in their spare time instead of running model trains, and are largely misunderstood because of it.
VICE: Why the name God, Guns & Guts?
Ben Philippi: It’s a saying that exists in America. I didn’t make it up. It was really the suggestion of Mark Muller, who’s on the cover of my book. I first saw him back in 2009 on CNN being interviewed about a promotion he was having at his car dealership in Missouri called “God, Guns, Guts and American Pickup Trucks.” The name hit a note with me, but it was two years later while I was visiting him and talking about titles for the book when he was like, “You should call it God, Guns & Guts ‘cause it’s controversial and it’s going to piss off a lot of Democrats.”
This is the guy that was giving away AK-47s with every purchase of a car, right?
That promotion all came out of something I later found out that Obama said, which was something to the effect of, “Those poor people in the Midwest are clinging to their Bibles and their guns.” Mark heard that and said, “You know what? Fuck that prick, I’m going to give away free guns with the purchase of a car from my dealership.” He didn’t just hand people a gun though. He gave them a voucher that meant they needed to have background checks before you could receive the gun at a store. The people who saw this promotion really latched onto it because to them it meant something more and had to do with how they felt about the government. Then a year after all of that, he did “Snipers for Vipers.”