The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture

Pamela Haag. Basic, $29.99 (528p) ISBN 978-0-465-04895-3
In this fascinating account, Haag (Marriage Confidential) traces the history of America’s gun-making business, arguing that “the tragedy of American gun violence emerged from the banality of the American gun business.” Oliver Winchester, known as “the rifle king,” who founded one of the first private armories in America in early 19th century, is the focal point of the narrative. As Haag notes, former clothier Winchester could just as easily have been remembered as the country’s “men’s shirt king.” The gun industry began with the colonial rebels’ need for more uniform weapons whose parts could be exchanged in the midst of battle. But reliance on government contracts during wartime proved an unreliable business model, forcing manufacturers to seek out other markets for the prodigious potential output of their military-scale factories. They began aggressive ad campaigns aimed to convince ordinary citizens that guns were something they needed to own. Haag offers some practical suggestions for curbing gun violence that involve treating weapons as a consumer product that should be regulated—noting the anomaly that toy guns are subject to safety regulations, while real guns are not. Both convincingly argued and eminently readable, Haag’s book will intrigue readers on all sides of the gun control debate. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/29/2016
Release date: 04/19/2016
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