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In The Gunning of America, historian Pamela Haag overturns this conventional wisdom. American gun culture, she argues, developed not because the gun was exceptional but precisely because it was not: guns proliferated in America because throughout most of the nation's history they were perceived as an unexceptional commodity, no different from buttons or typewriters.
Focusing on the history of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, one of the most iconic arms manufacturers in America, Haag challenges many basic assumptions of how and when America became a gun culture. Under the leadership of Oliver Winchester and his heirs, the company used aggressive, sometimes ingenious sales and marketing techniques to create new markets for their product. Guns have never "sold themselves"; rather, through advertising and innovative distribution campaigns, the gun industry did.
Through the meticulous examination of gun-industry archives, Haag challenges the myth of a primal bond between Americans and their firearms. Over the course of its 150-year history, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company sold over eight million guns. But Oliver Winchester - a shirtmaker in his previous career - had no apparent qualms about a life spent arming America. His daughter-in-law, Sarah Winchester, was a different story. Legend holds that Sarah was haunted by what she considered a vast blood fortune and became convinced that the ghosts of rifle victims were haunting her.
In this provocative and deeply researched work of narrative history, Haag fundamentally revises the history of arms in America and, in so doing, explodes the clichés that have created and sustained our lethal gun culture.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Margie Reinitz on 03-15-18
Chapter 23 sums up our current gun issues
This book focuses on how capitalists wanted all Americans to think they need to buy a gun. Also gives excellent background on capilatists being gun runners and merchants of death. We did not get to our current gun issues by chance. Study the history.
By D. Rosado on 11-01-17
Interesting but all over the place
The topic is certainly relevant and interesting. However the book is all over the place. I think the book would have been better served by starting with the epilogue, and sticking to the sales and marketing tactics used by the gun industry with more emphasis on the nra and its tactics. The Sarah Winchester story was dragged out well past being interesting.