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A gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and injured 53 at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 12. Mateen, too, was killed after police broke into the building, where he was holding 30 more people hostage for several hours, and shot him. The night is known as the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

How America Fell In Love With Guns


As the county reels from Sunday morning’s events in Orlando, America’s complicated relationship with guns is once again a public conversation. Earlier this month on Think, Krys Boyd explored the topic with Pamela Haag, author of, “The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture.”

The KERA Think Interview

Interview Highlights: Pamela Haag…

…On the history of American gun culture:

“We haven’t always had one particular feeling about guns or about all guns as a group and that’s really changed over time. I think the trajectory is one of really looking more at guns as tools in the 1800s. Useful weapons; things to have in a certain context. To at the turn of the century really moving toward viewing guns as a commodity and an object that has much deeper value and meaning and that speaks to some emotional values as well.”

…On how the gun industry shaped gun culture:

“There were many Americans in the early 1900s who looked at the pistol as a great nuisance and wondered why it was that it was around. Why would we need guns? So Americans at this time are becoming a little more gun conscious. They were either becoming more adverse to the gun or developing a deeper affection for the gun. And the gun industry’s contribution here, its transition, particularly evident in advertisement, was toward emphasizing all these intangible symbolic values and feelings that could be associated with the gun.

They began to emphasize the gun as a totem of manhood and masculinity. They drew on the vocabulary of psychology and talked about a natural instinct to own a gun. The Winchester archive even includes a discussion of the shooting instinct that they thought was present in most all humans and particularly in boys. So there’s a real effort to tap into a deeper feeling and longing for a gun rather than just talking about how a gun works. So really the shift is from how a gun works to how it makes you feel.”

…On how guns are marketed today:

“Today, a lot of trends are against the gun. Not only are guns made to last, which has always been true, but the intergenerational trend has been away from hunting, there are more female headed households where guns aren’t used or owned as frequently, fewer households own guns, but what’s happening is that the guns have just even a political value today. I know people who buy guns simply because they’re disgusted with gun control legislation … and they want to own a gun to show that they can.”