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Americans have always loved guns. This special bond was forged during the American Revolution and sanctified by the Second Amendment. It is because of this exceptional relationship that American civilians are more heavily armed than the citizens of any other nation. Or so we're told. In The Gunning of America, historian Pamela Haag overturns this conventional wisdom. Ameri Americans have always loved guns. This special bond was forged during the American Revolution and sanctified by the Second Amendment. It is because of this exceptional relationship that American civilians are more heavily armed than the citizens of any other nation. Or so we're told. 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 than 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 8 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. She channeled much of her inheritance, and her conflicted conscience, into a monstrous estate now known as the Winchester Mystery House, where she sought refuge from this ever-expanding army of phantoms. 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 clichéthat have created and sustained our lethal gun culture.


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Americans have always loved guns. This special bond was forged during the American Revolution and sanctified by the Second Amendment. It is because of this exceptional relationship that American civilians are more heavily armed than the citizens of any other nation. Or so we're told. In The Gunning of America, historian Pamela Haag overturns this conventional wisdom. Ameri Americans have always loved guns. This special bond was forged during the American Revolution and sanctified by the Second Amendment. It is because of this exceptional relationship that American civilians are more heavily armed than the citizens of any other nation. Or so we're told. 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 than 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 8 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. She channeled much of her inheritance, and her conflicted conscience, into a monstrous estate now known as the Winchester Mystery House, where she sought refuge from this ever-expanding army of phantoms. 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 clichéthat have created and sustained our lethal gun culture.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I saw this had a pretty low rating on Amazon and figured the complaints were just from a bunch of pro-gun folks who didn't like a book that might be critical of the gun industry. That may be part of the reason, but after reading it I think it's got other substantial issues. The biggest problem is there's really two different books here. The one the author clearly wanted to write and the one that's sold by the title. The problem is the latter is far more interesting and when it does come out is fa I saw this had a pretty low rating on Amazon and figured the complaints were just from a bunch of pro-gun folks who didn't like a book that might be critical of the gun industry. That may be part of the reason, but after reading it I think it's got other substantial issues. The biggest problem is there's really two different books here. The one the author clearly wanted to write and the one that's sold by the title. The problem is the latter is far more interesting and when it does come out is fascinating. But there's far too much of the book the author clearly hoped to put together. Here's where they diverge. The introduction and parts of the book are a pretty interesting discussion about how America became obsessed with guns. It's told through the perspective of the people making it and how they romanticized certain parts of our culture (e.g. the west and cowboys) to sell guns by creating narratives that are not historically true. It also traces the history of how guns used to be these basically bespoke things to becoming instead a massive industrial project. That book would be a great read. Here's the book the author wanted to write. It's about this woman named Sarah who was the heiress to the Winchester business and fortune. Sarah had some really lousy luck--lost several children and her husband at a relatively young age. She got kind of obsessed with ghosts and spirits, moved out west and built a truly weird house. It's kind of interesting as a random aside, but Haag treats this as a very significant part of the book. There's whole chapters just about Sarah's journey out west, building the house, obsessing with spirits, and things that have nothing to do with the actual gun industry. That all becomes a slog and feels like it takes real estate away from the story that is actually interesting. Yet you can also tell this is what got Haag excited. There's so much more laid out in Sarah's story and it goes into so much more detail that it's clearly what she really enjoyed researching and wanted to write about.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alex Pepski

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. This book was good for the span of topics it chose to cover. The research was thorough and it was written quite well. I just wish it would have covered more. I felt like the book had set us up to really tear open the gun debate only to end instead. To that point, I would welcome a sequel to this book. I know it wasn't the book's goal to make those arguments, but it feels incomplete to me without them. Nonetheless, besides the sidetracking into Sarah I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. This book was good for the span of topics it chose to cover. The research was thorough and it was written quite well. I just wish it would have covered more. I felt like the book had set us up to really tear open the gun debate only to end instead. To that point, I would welcome a sequel to this book. I know it wasn't the book's goal to make those arguments, but it feels incomplete to me without them. Nonetheless, besides the sidetracking into Sarah Winchester's dalliances into convoluted architecture, I thought this was a very good book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I hope this author writes a whole book based on her epilogue, because this was one of the best books I've read in a while and the epilogue had some great ideas in it that I'd like to see expanded. Basically, the author started out fascinated with Sarah Winchester's house and from there realized that everything we "know" about American "gun culture" was actually created by the arms industry, who basically created modern advertising. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. The Winchester family s I hope this author writes a whole book based on her epilogue, because this was one of the best books I've read in a while and the epilogue had some great ideas in it that I'd like to see expanded. Basically, the author started out fascinated with Sarah Winchester's house and from there realized that everything we "know" about American "gun culture" was actually created by the arms industry, who basically created modern advertising. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. The Winchester family story was compelling, as was the history of the industrialization of weapons manufacturing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    There are an estimated 300 million privately owned guns in the United States today, but only 276 million registered vehicles. So how do MAGA gun nuts plan to stop the government once the commies finally take over, by carpooling? Before “the Winchester” could become the “Gun That Won the West” it was the gun that armed the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Cuba and Mexico. The King of Sardinia bought Colts while Smith and Wesson’s finances was kept alive by Russian contracts. In Revolutionary War times you There are an estimated 300 million privately owned guns in the United States today, but only 276 million registered vehicles. So how do MAGA gun nuts plan to stop the government once the commies finally take over, by carpooling? Before “the Winchester” could become the “Gun That Won the West” it was the gun that armed the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Cuba and Mexico. The King of Sardinia bought Colts while Smith and Wesson’s finances was kept alive by Russian contracts. In Revolutionary War times you had too many firearms of a “miscellaneous character” and so many had to be rested on “forked sticks when used”. It took a long time to make a gun. A little later on 2/3 of the south had guns while 1/3 to ½ of Northerners had guns. In Colt’s terms, their company was merely “making something to sell.” Colt’s lawyer was a little more enthusiastic: “The thing is so good that …it killed all the Indians”. Most of the Civil War was fought with muzzle loaders. Old nine-pound muzzle loaders had been too damn slow, you stand erect, pull a cartridge, pour the powder, ram, replace, cock, fire. If you could pull of two shots a minute you were fast. The Winchester Henry was a revolutionary weapon – capable of 15 rounds. The Civil War used 8,500 private Henrys versus 106,667 government purchased Spensers. The Spenser could shoot 20 rounds per minute, while the Henry could shoot 30 shots per minute. The Spenser requires three motions, the Henry required two motions. Winchester had a Cathedral and a song, Spenser didn’t. Winchester learned for next war he wanted that government contract instead of Spenser, but he also learned that accidentally, his method of distribution allowed him thin but effective saturation of the US market. To pick up post-Civil War gun sales in the early 1900’s, Winchester executives felt, “what was needed, had to be loved”. But how do you love a gun when the majority of guns deaths at the time were actually suicides? When gun deaths at the time were far more likely to occur because of intoxication, than because of honor? Easy, you tell the customer what they want to hear, a story. The “Invention of the Wild West”. For most US history, guns were like shovels, just cheap tools. The PR industry was born with the “Wild West” myth. The job of PR and advertising is for the consumer to make uninformed irrational purchases. For example, it’s not rational to think a few guns will protect you from government tyranny and yet that is the only remaining reason for the culture. For Noam Chomsky, the first reason for the Republican Party to keep pushing shallow gun culture is “for diverting attention from its assault on the underlying population.” The Republican Party successfully distracts with their Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum platforms: “Liberal Baby Killers” & “They’re Coming to Take Our Guns”. Keep your voters distracted with these two tired but effective canards of manufactured fear. Its funny how the US corporate gun industry is centered on “individualism” while every gun is intentionally made identical to the next with identical interchangeable parts. It’s a business whose business is to make you think it’s a culture. Pamela says only two manufacturers become icons of the American West: Colt and Winchester. [But I’d say that Buffalo Bill used a Remington Rolling Block Rifle, Yellow Hair use a Remington Army revolver, General Custer used a Sharps Rifle, Annie Oakley used a Smith & Wesson. And both Guns & Ammo and Field & Stream have articles on how “Remington firearms played a vital role in the Wild West.”] Colonel George Schofield, as spokesman for mythic patriotic US rugged individualism, once stated “I want no other occupation in life than to ward off the savage and kill off his food until there should no longer be an Indian frontier in our beautiful country”. What a clinically excellent reduction of US settler-colonialism to one sentence. Dime store novels were filled with yarns about white men killing Indians right and left with their guns. Wild Bill Hickock apologized to his publishers for one of his written characters killing as many Indians in one episode as Settler-colonial Bill had done in his entire life. He concluded, “but I understand this is what is expected of border tales.” Billy the Kid apparently killed no more than eight people, but according to the cheap western novels he could have killed as many people as Obama or Bush did with a [illegal] US drone strike. Wallace Stegner said a real cowboy was a “overworked, underpaid hireling, almost homeless and disposed as a modern crop worker.” What? He’s not a ruggedly handsome white man in a Stetson smoking a Marlboro in a snowstorm while National Geo’s William Albert Allard photographs him with a 600mm from the bucket of a cherry picker? Chances are he would look like the guy who just brought more lettuce to your restaurant chef. Theodore Roosevelt was a gun nut. He went to Africa to kill the game he said he loved. The man famous for saving the wilderness, shot down a fleeing giraffe after he earlier shot a lion so they both could be put in the Smithsonian. To travel halfway around the world just to kill those who you find beautiful, proves what a gem of a human you are. One happy Winchester customer wrote the company delighted that their product enabled him to kill in just 70 days on safari, “94 animals, including 11 elephants, 10 rhebok, 3 hippos, 9 antelope, and 3 warthogs.” Zero evolution from the days of the exterminating millions of buffalo solely for their hides and tongue. I hate this wetiko culture. In 1898, President McKinley wrote, “We must have Hawaii to help us get our share of China.” What a perfect example of the US Presidential mindset. We must commit a crime of aggression to be able to commit an even bigger international crime of aggression. What? We must rob the man who just fell on the ice, so we have the money to steal from an even bigger mark. I’m beginning to think US foreign policy is just the application of honor to what is legally theft. Large parts of the book follow the rich and eccentric Sarah Winchester; what she has to do with the book’s thesis, I don’t know [she was supposed to have had a conscience]. Sarah’s “Mystery” Mansion in San Jose has: 2,000 doors, 150,000 panes of glass, and 47 fireplaces. We are told that one of Sarah’s Mansion’s staircases “one of forty, goes nowhere and ends at a ceiling.” People actually still flock to the house to see this riveting detail. Made only with funds from decades of Winchesters killing people around the world, the Mansion was the perfect size for one woman living alone with her conscience. Annie Oakley was an unimpressive markswoman. Winchester “advertised extensively in American Boy, Boy’s Life, Youth Companion, and the Saturday Evening Post” with ads deeply associating guns and masculinity. I can just picture those ads: “Little boys and deadly firearms? What could go wrong?” The Winchester Herald explained, “Every man, woman, or child has an inherent desire to own a gun.” We love guns because “the gun industry invited us to.” Between 1935>1960 over fourteen hundred Westerns were released. In 1959, eight of the top 10 prime time TV shows were Westerns. In 2010, there were 31,672 gun deaths in the US (CDC figures). Around 62% of these were suicides, and 36% were homicides (83% of these homicides were by someone the shooter personally knew). So, the gun industry needs new customers to want and desire to own an expensive item which if used for aggression, has a 62% chance of being used for their own suicide. And if they ever use the gun to kill someone else, they have an 83% chance of shooting someone they know. This makes me ask: how do Right Wing militias plan to overthrow the commie government, if they are statistically far more apt to kill themselves or someone they know? Question: If you belong to a hate group, during a shootout, would all “Friendly Fire” be classified as “Un-Friendly fire”? 57% of women killed by handgun were killed by an intimate acquaintance. Control studies show a woman having a gun in her house decreases her safety. Pamela tells of a British journalist who found an manufacturer supplying two different countries at war with each other. [not surprising given during the Iran/Iraq War, the US intentionally supplied both sides with weapons – including nerve gas and mustard agents sent to Saddam]. We are not fighting a gun culture, but a gun business. The US gun industry has enjoyed federal protection against civil lawsuits since 2005. Why? Thanks to that, “a toy gun is subjected to more consumer safeguards than a real gun.” Interesting book, but I more recommend “Gunfighter Nation”, by Richard Slotkin.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    I learned some things about the history of gun manufacturing and marketing in the US in the 19th century, but it was waaaay too long and with much more detail than I needed. If you don't want to read the whole book, read the first chapter, the last chapter, and the epilogue. That will give you a pretty good idea. Basically, the author argues that our cultural belief in guns as a quintessential American force is not historically accurate. People didn't even have that many guns in revolutionary Ame I learned some things about the history of gun manufacturing and marketing in the US in the 19th century, but it was waaaay too long and with much more detail than I needed. If you don't want to read the whole book, read the first chapter, the last chapter, and the epilogue. That will give you a pretty good idea. Basically, the author argues that our cultural belief in guns as a quintessential American force is not historically accurate. People didn't even have that many guns in revolutionary America. Even once guns became mass-produced (rather than being made individually), there wasn't a lot of demand for individual gun sales, and gun companies struggled to even make enough money to break even, let alone break a profit. Wars were kind of helpful, but not really, because they demanded huge numbers of guns be produced for a short amount of time, and then suddenly ended and no more weapons were needed. The original dealers of mass-produced guns had to turn to international markets (sometimes supplying arms to both sides of an armed conflict) in order to stay financially solvent. Eventually they got good at marketing to individuals and their marketing was part of what created the whole ethos of the individualist American gun-owning man. But basically, gun manufacturing companies are very fragile and it has not been easy for them to keep demand for their product going. Also, the author says that there wasn't actually that much gun violence in the American West - at least, nowhere near as much as we think. I thought the material about Sarah Winchester (of the Winchester Mystery House) was interesting, but was surprised how little actual information there is about her beliefs and practices. Almost all of what we "know" today about why she built the house is based on conjecture and second- or third-hand reports from people who knew her. Interesting point from near the end of the book: The government has some state interest in letting arms manufacturers off easy when it comes to regulation, because the government needs private gun companies to be available in case of war. "To be prepared to defend the public good, gun men needed to be able to make a private profit, and that required an unfettered commercial market." (378) The epilogue has a great series of recommendations about gun control that would target companies rather than individual gun owners - I like the author's point about how gun control activists have sometimes tended to demonize individual gun owners rather than looking at the larger system at work.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven Kaminski

    Fascinating book. I expected this book to get into the politics of guns but really what this book looked closely at was the evolution of guns in America & how this country became the ultimate supplier of guns to all the foreign markets in the world. - Before the 1800's, most guns in America (and around the world) were made by gunsmiths. Guys with specialty knowledge who would sit on a bench in front of a desk and create a gun by hand. It was an arduous task and very time consuming. - But that st Fascinating book. I expected this book to get into the politics of guns but really what this book looked closely at was the evolution of guns in America & how this country became the ultimate supplier of guns to all the foreign markets in the world. - Before the 1800's, most guns in America (and around the world) were made by gunsmiths. Guys with specialty knowledge who would sit on a bench in front of a desk and create a gun by hand. It was an arduous task and very time consuming. - But that started to change with of all things Eli Whitney who after losing his patent on the cotton gin (which revolutionized cotton production in the South) joined with a few other manufacturers to help the government create a supply of arms for the armories established by the government at Harper's Ferry & other places. - The manufacturers such as Oliver Winchester & later his daughter Sarah, weren't into creating guns they had manufactured clothes and other items with cloth but took up the government contracts to keep their facilities in production. - Eli Whitney when he came to the government with his finished product stunned Thomas Jefferson and others as he had created the first firearm with totally interchangeable parts. That leap forward made the country a huge gun producer in particular for foreign markets. - The book also gets into the life and wild adventures of Samuel Colt who with his pistols (he gave many of them to royalty as gifts) sort of worked with Winchester and colluded to take the whole market for guns. Winchester made rifles...Colt made pistols. - In the late 1800's Winchester cemented its place in the market by inventing the repeater for its rifles. The slaughter being able to shoot multiple rounds brought forward just made every foreign leader want to have them. Winchester would go on to be acquired right as the depression hit but both companies still thrive in the Northeast today.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Scott

    I finished the unabridged audiobook this week. Some of the complaints about the book are well founded. The title of the work suggests the book will encompass the entire history of America’s gun business. It focuses primarily on the fortunes of the Winchester company and the 19th and early 20th century gun market. It does this very well, but with a deeply researched and extensive digression into Sarah Winchester’s life. Sarah was the eccentric heir to the Winchester fortune and builder of the famed I finished the unabridged audiobook this week. Some of the complaints about the book are well founded. The title of the work suggests the book will encompass the entire history of America’s gun business. It focuses primarily on the fortunes of the Winchester company and the 19th and early 20th century gun market. It does this very well, but with a deeply researched and extensive digression into Sarah Winchester’s life. Sarah was the eccentric heir to the Winchester fortune and builder of the famed “Winchester Mystery House”. Haag writes a detailed fascinating account of Sarah’s house, her life and her ventures into spiritualism and provides a background into spiritualism as a movement and as a vehicle for con-artists (members of the skeptical movement will love this portion). Here is where many take exception to the book...she goes a bit too far with it. While it is interesting, it is off topic. It was meat enough for another book entirely...one in itself worth reading, but misplaced here. Haag clearly is for gun control, which will alienate gun enthusiasts who would enjoy much of the history she has to offer. They’ll be quick to point out her lack of familiarity with firearms. At one point she claims the famed “Tommy Gun” (Thompson submachine gun) has a drum magazine of holding 500 rounds. This is an absurdly high number that is ten times the actual number. No drum magazine ever existed for the Thompson that could take past fifty. It is an unfortunate error,and one I hope she corrects. It could be the error on the part of the reader of the audiobook. All that said, it is a worthwhile book for those interested in history and/or the gun control debate. It ought not be ignored because of political sentiments or the aforementioned digression. It dives deeply into the areas it addresses. I plan on finding a copy of the physical book for my library as a resource.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aviad Eilam

    Despite the book's focus on the gun industry, we never get an overall lay of the land, nor an in-depth description of the history of the relations between the industry and the NRA. Instead, Haag spends an inordinate amount of time on the story of Sarah Winchester - whose life story is very interesting but whose connection to the topic is somewhat speculative - and on repeating the same themes (e.g., how advertising was central to the development of the current perception of guns). An extra star Despite the book's focus on the gun industry, we never get an overall lay of the land, nor an in-depth description of the history of the relations between the industry and the NRA. Instead, Haag spends an inordinate amount of time on the story of Sarah Winchester - whose life story is very interesting but whose connection to the topic is somewhat speculative - and on repeating the same themes (e.g., how advertising was central to the development of the current perception of guns). An extra star for the interesting policy proposals at the end, which were novel to me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tadas Talaikis

    I expected much more recent history. Book doesn't fit the title, marketing gimmick. First you see it, oh, there are a lot of crazy idiots dancing with guns in America, and it's about gunning. And second, you realize it's about history of some gunmaker told in a bit disorganized crazy way. It promises to tell about American gun culture, but there are somewhat only 20 pages on it. I expected much more recent history. Book doesn't fit the title, marketing gimmick. First you see it, oh, there are a lot of crazy idiots dancing with guns in America, and it's about gunning. And second, you realize it's about history of some gunmaker told in a bit disorganized crazy way. It promises to tell about American gun culture, but there are somewhat only 20 pages on it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bronwen

    This has been on my 'to read' list for ages but I finally picked it up at the library. Completely engrossing and fascinating from both a purely historical perspective and from a cultural perspective. I found myself quoting passages to my husband at 11pm on several nights because I had just spent half an hour figuring out how a Winchester 73 actually worked or because I had to tell him how Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame was so instrumental in revolutionizing the gun industry. You know a book is c This has been on my 'to read' list for ages but I finally picked it up at the library. Completely engrossing and fascinating from both a purely historical perspective and from a cultural perspective. I found myself quoting passages to my husband at 11pm on several nights because I had just spent half an hour figuring out how a Winchester 73 actually worked or because I had to tell him how Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame was so instrumental in revolutionizing the gun industry. You know a book is compelling if you spend as much time on Wikipedia tangents (e.g. The history of Beadle's Dime Novels) as you do reading the actual book. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrea James

    This book is so repetitive. I found the approach of examining the topic of guns in America from a business/marketing perspective really interesting and I was keen to learn the history of the gun makers and their influence over the gun market/policies. But I just started zoning out about a third of the way through the book about the spiritual journey of Sarah Winchester (there was an overwhelming focus on Winchester's family history) and picked up again at the last couple of chapters. This book is so repetitive. I found the approach of examining the topic of guns in America from a business/marketing perspective really interesting and I was keen to learn the history of the gun makers and their influence over the gun market/policies. But I just started zoning out about a third of the way through the book about the spiritual journey of Sarah Winchester (there was an overwhelming focus on Winchester's family history) and picked up again at the last couple of chapters.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ren

    This is a history of corporate gun manufacture in America, not really a history of American gun culture. As such, I shouldn't have expected it to move at the speed of a bullet -- maybe a bullet rolling along the floor? But the author's epilogue, and her thoughts on how to revolutionize efforts on gun control by focusing on gun makers rather than gun owners, are startling in their clear-headed obviousness and ostensible power. This is a history of corporate gun manufacture in America, not really a history of American gun culture. As such, I shouldn't have expected it to move at the speed of a bullet -- maybe a bullet rolling along the floor? But the author's epilogue, and her thoughts on how to revolutionize efforts on gun control by focusing on gun makers rather than gun owners, are startling in their clear-headed obviousness and ostensible power.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelleen

    I enjoyed it for the history. I was not familiar with the origins of Smith & Wesson, Colt, Remington, or Winchester. Now I know a bit more. I was disappointed with how much speculation the author wrote about Sarah Winchester. I understand setting the stage for why she might be a spiritualist for her time, and how that builds in the the Winchester "mystery" mansion, but much seemed superfluous. I enjoyed it for the history. I was not familiar with the origins of Smith & Wesson, Colt, Remington, or Winchester. Now I know a bit more. I was disappointed with how much speculation the author wrote about Sarah Winchester. I understand setting the stage for why she might be a spiritualist for her time, and how that builds in the the Winchester "mystery" mansion, but much seemed superfluous.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eduard

    Liberal Propaganda political opinion book more than non-fiction. Thank God I got the audiobook for free from the library. It took me nearly 6 MONTHS to get through this overly long diatribe. Author attempts to do something sneaky by mixing facts with fiction (her opinion) so simpletons would think the fiction is fact. She should be a CNN fake news reporter. Think about it, a book on guns written by a woman, do you really think you're gonna get something legit here? Fictionalizing Facts, revision Liberal Propaganda political opinion book more than non-fiction. Thank God I got the audiobook for free from the library. It took me nearly 6 MONTHS to get through this overly long diatribe. Author attempts to do something sneaky by mixing facts with fiction (her opinion) so simpletons would think the fiction is fact. She should be a CNN fake news reporter. Think about it, a book on guns written by a woman, do you really think you're gonna get something legit here? Fictionalizing Facts, revisionist history, and liberal propaganda book. Author makes assumptions, opinions, and speculative statements passing them on as fact. Like all revisionist history we see today. Since Hussien Obama was elected fake news and social media hit critical mass. This book is a fake book (non-fiction book like fake news). Author seems to think she discovered a revelation by incessantly repeating how there was a gun industry and gun manufacturing actually took place in factories! (where were they supposed to make them? In porta potties? Wow, like there was a thing called the Industrial Revolution or something? Author constantly ranted that gun companies “resorted to advertising!” Newsflash to the commie fake news author: hey moron since USA was never communist (despite bernie sanders) the gun industry, like any industry, is competitive free market capitalism with each gun manufacturer competing against the other (resulting in better products). Like shoes, dishes, clothes, cars, movies etc. in a free market economy (especially then when America really was a Republic) there is competition with more than 1 business doing the same thing. In a competitive business world advertising exists and guess what? Advertising is an industry too and Ad agencies compete with each other and market, promote, and sell to get clients (see Mad Men). Idiot author who never had a job fails to see this. Gun companies ‘resorted to advertising and marketing’ is that against the law? The fake author is trying to propagandize that nobody really wanted guns but the gun companies fooled consumers into buying them with clever advertising. Gun ads were actually never clever, just very straightforward promoting brand recognition. Gun companies never put a gun to a consumers head to make them buy a gun (pun intended). The author is trying to propagandize that this was the case. Nobody wanted a gun but the slick advertising hoodwinked them! Author claimed there wasn't really a utility for guns. Yes the liberal fake author said that. Yeah, in the wild west there was a kroger supermarket with a nice refrigerated meat section, so nobody needed to hunt for food. Perhaps they were vegans and did yoga. There really isn't a utility with a gun? How about sustenance moron? It’s called progress like driving a car. It's easier to shoot a deer and eat it than outrun it tackle it and punch it. Perhaps it's more efficient to hit it with a stick, or buy meat at a non-existent costco in 1875. People bought guns bc they needed them. Perhaps advertising made a consumer purchase a Winchester vs a Marlin vs a Colt vs a Springfield vs a Sharps, vs Ithaca, or vs a Remington. I named all these gun manufacturers off the top of my head. ALL these gun companies started in the early to mid 1800s. 7 companies! So yes I'd say that is a highly competitive industry and companies use advertising to distinguish themselves just like in EVERY PRODUCT. This fake author like all liberals doesn't know the first thing about guns but is hell bent on making propaganda. As if advertising created the need to eat and defend against evil. The book finishes with the authors promoting that gun companies should be liable for shooting deaths. Then car companies should be liable for all car deaths, knife companies should be liable for all stabbings, construction companies and landlords should be liable for wrongful death lawsuits for all people who jumped off a building or were pushed. Same liberal logic. Liberal scumbag lawyers have done this with cigarette companies, it's been tried on fast food companies, and of course drug companies. If an evil person stabs you with a Bic pen is Bic Pen company liable? Yes according to libtards. Save yourself a LOT of time and take a hard pass on this liberal fake news garbage. I barely stuck with it only bc I try to finish what I start. No chance I'd have ever read the book. The audio book was intolerable.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burns

    I’ve thought about buying a gun off and on in my life. It’s never been a driving need or something I’ve obsessed about, but I’m aware of the people who are. Gun culture pervades american culture though its never felt like something I’m intimately connected to, beyond its exposure in video games and movies. I wandered to this book in the wake of the cyclical gun violence that comes to us every year like seasonal storms. I am not a bleeding heart, I don’t think gun violence (in schools) is the mos I’ve thought about buying a gun off and on in my life. It’s never been a driving need or something I’ve obsessed about, but I’m aware of the people who are. Gun culture pervades american culture though its never felt like something I’m intimately connected to, beyond its exposure in video games and movies. I wandered to this book in the wake of the cyclical gun violence that comes to us every year like seasonal storms. I am not a bleeding heart, I don’t think gun violence (in schools) is the most important aspect of the debate, but it still strikes a chord that makes me yearn to understand. I think this book helped with that understanding. The author’s main supposition is that unlike what we’ve been told, America was not born with a gun culture. In fact until the industrial revolution proper there was no way to actually HAVE a gun culture. Guns were unique and rare, they each had to be hand made and were thus luxury items. There was no massive gun culture beyond the artisan and military varieties. This changed in the industrial revolution, but only through the help of government funds, without which the gun industry would’ve stagnated. It is a fascinating history and insight into how a gun culture, a uniquely american invention, was produced and made. For the bulk of american history the gun companies had a hard time keep demand high for their product, wars counterintuitively would flood the market and make their sales numbers plummet. It was only through aggressive advertising and making the gun an emotional object rather than a practical one that they were able to make a reasonable profit, to the point where at one point they were demonizing subsistence hunters for ‘hunting only for practicality and not emotion’. And then of course there is the side story of Sarah Winchester depicted as the ‘conscience’ of the Winchester company, feeling the burden of deaths that they indirectly caused. Her subsequent descent into ‘eccentricity’ is a fascinating journey. A combination of spiritualism, depression and a touch of obsession made manifest in her ever expanding and never finished home. She is a fascinating conflicted character, which is reflected in the author’s apparent enjoy about writing about her It is a fascinating read, and gives a great insight into how gun culture came to be and why it persists as it does. The author makes her views clear on the politics of it towards the end which, while I’m agree with her, left a bad taste in my mouth. Often we try to assign morality to history devoid of the cultural ideas of the time. Though that is why she included Sarah Winchester in the first place, to act as the cultural barometer for how this felt to someone outside of the ‘masculine ideal’. I recommend the book to anyone interested in gun history, though would put an asterisk on that for anyone who is pro-gun. However, context is always important and without context opinions are just words on the wind. With it though, we can as a group understand how we got to where we are, and how we can move forward from here...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cortney Mere

    I don’t consider myself someone who knows much about guns or the history of guns in America. I read this book hoping it would teach me something new... It didn’t. This book was not well written. It was weird the way the author claims our notions about American gun culture are based on wild tales but then spends a good portion of the book subjectively trying to get into Sarah Winchester’s head and obsess over her myth. We made her into a symbol of the fun-maker’s guilt. We have no evidence she saw I don’t consider myself someone who knows much about guns or the history of guns in America. I read this book hoping it would teach me something new... It didn’t. This book was not well written. It was weird the way the author claims our notions about American gun culture are based on wild tales but then spends a good portion of the book subjectively trying to get into Sarah Winchester’s head and obsess over her myth. We made her into a symbol of the fun-maker’s guilt. We have no evidence she saw herself that way. It comes across as contradictory, subjective, and wildly off-topic. When she gets into the history of guns, it’s exactly what you would expect. She uses a lot of specific statistics and examples but you walk away wondering why you wasted hours of your life when it doesn’t change your perspective of the gun’s history in America at all. For all the time she spends hypothesizing about Sarah Winchester, you wish she could make deeper, fresher analysis of the facts she uses. I think she could benefit from juxtaposing today’s gun company with yesteryear’s gun company more intentionally. Perhaps she could draw in more resources on business ethics. I should also say that I listened to this on audio and possibly didn’t give the book it’s full due, but I won’t be taking that chance by rereading it to find out.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    A fine telling of America's gun industry through the story of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The author tells the story by taking the reader on two tracks: A business case study of the company and A grieving widow coping with questions of the afterlife. The WRAC was a by-the-way creation in the very early days of the country's industrial revolution. A shirt maker whose fascination with machines making parts for a product became accidental firearm manufacturing company. Oliver Winchester was A fine telling of America's gun industry through the story of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The author tells the story by taking the reader on two tracks: A business case study of the company and A grieving widow coping with questions of the afterlife. The WRAC was a by-the-way creation in the very early days of the country's industrial revolution. A shirt maker whose fascination with machines making parts for a product became accidental firearm manufacturing company. Oliver Winchester was a shrewd businessman. Failing to obtaining government contracts through the war department. Winchester went to foreign governments and eventually to the commercial market. Here WRAC took off. An aggressive sales force and area dealers took the company through 19th century. In the early 20th century, the company's marketing turned a tool into the sacred American instrument revered by sportsmen, collectors, and militia. "The gun that won the west" was actually was the resulting idea where "the west that won the gun." The second track is the story of Sarah Winchester and her infamous mansion. Yes, both tracks come together in the end.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Not really what I expected. Haag spends 300 out of the 400 pages on the early days of the gun business in the 1800s, primarily with the Winchester family but also the Colts, Remingtons, and Wessons. Because of my interest in Sarah Winchester and her mystery house, I appreciate her contrast between Sarah's consciousness and spiritualism and the laser-focus on marketing and business of Oliver (the patriarch). And Haag also thoroughly covers the budding gun business' interaction with the government Not really what I expected. Haag spends 300 out of the 400 pages on the early days of the gun business in the 1800s, primarily with the Winchester family but also the Colts, Remingtons, and Wessons. Because of my interest in Sarah Winchester and her mystery house, I appreciate her contrast between Sarah's consciousness and spiritualism and the laser-focus on marketing and business of Oliver (the patriarch). And Haag also thoroughly covers the budding gun business' interaction with the government (and surprising distaste for government contracts in the Civil War and WWI) as well as the mythos that has surrounded guns in early America. However, only the last 50 pages start to discuss the gun industry in the post-world war period to modern day, which was what I was most interested in. She briefly touches on legislation and advocates shifting the focus away from the NRA and other gun owners towards gun producers and sellers (ie. the business side), but this merits more discussion space than given.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert S

    The Gunning of America feels like one of those books where the author had an interesting story to tell that would have worked better as an essay but instead ended up shoehorned into a larger book that ultimately makes for a mixed read. Haag's telling of the history of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and their heirs is interesting. However, the book's title and premise doesn't really live up to the expectations of what I was expecting with this book. Others might get more out of it than I wou The Gunning of America feels like one of those books where the author had an interesting story to tell that would have worked better as an essay but instead ended up shoehorned into a larger book that ultimately makes for a mixed read. Haag's telling of the history of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and their heirs is interesting. However, the book's title and premise doesn't really live up to the expectations of what I was expecting with this book. Others might get more out of it than I would.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I didn't finish this book. I got the gist of it in about the first 50 pages. The popularity of guns in the 20th and 21st century are largely due to great marketing. It comes as no shock that we Americans have fallen for a romantic western cowboy story. And just like the prevalent cultural relativism that plagues both the left and the right, the conservatives fall hook line and sinker for the myth of the gun going back to the second amendment. This is all clearly outlined in the first 50 pages. G I didn't finish this book. I got the gist of it in about the first 50 pages. The popularity of guns in the 20th and 21st century are largely due to great marketing. It comes as no shock that we Americans have fallen for a romantic western cowboy story. And just like the prevalent cultural relativism that plagues both the left and the right, the conservatives fall hook line and sinker for the myth of the gun going back to the second amendment. This is all clearly outlined in the first 50 pages. Good points but not worth plowing through the author's other side stories.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

    This was an interesting book. I liked it, but thought the author tried to pack a bit too much in. Her stated objective was to explore American gun culture through a historical examination of the gun industry. I found that very interesting, but there was almost two books worth of material between the history of the industry and the study of gun culture. While the material was all interesting, it might have been a better book with a little less in it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Felix Hedberg

    I think this book wasn't really for me to begin with, it was super dense and probably would suit a true history buff better. The length and density made it hard for me to connect information to the author's key points, and I feel as though the book could have been majorly condensed. I did enjoy the sections about Sarah Winchester, and the author's passion and skill showed through in those chapters. In the future, I think a book about Sarah Winchester could really suit this author's talents. I think this book wasn't really for me to begin with, it was super dense and probably would suit a true history buff better. The length and density made it hard for me to connect information to the author's key points, and I feel as though the book could have been majorly condensed. I did enjoy the sections about Sarah Winchester, and the author's passion and skill showed through in those chapters. In the future, I think a book about Sarah Winchester could really suit this author's talents.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Becker

    An interesting premise — the creation of American gun culture as a business/economic phenomenon — derailed by frequent digressions, particularly the author’s determination to turn gun heiress and haunted house eccentric Sarah Winchester into a metaphor for the uneasy marriage of commerce and morals. Would have been much more readable and powerful in the author had kept to the point: That America’s twin obsessions of war and profit created a consumer gun market like no other.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I would give this book 3.5 stars. The book is very true to its title, but not to my expectations. The author told the history of guns in America and a lot about Winchester's history. I was hoping for more about the divide between NRA and others who hold opposite thoughts about gun ownership. All in all, still very interesting. I would give this book 3.5 stars. The book is very true to its title, but not to my expectations. The author told the history of guns in America and a lot about Winchester's history. I was hoping for more about the divide between NRA and others who hold opposite thoughts about gun ownership. All in all, still very interesting.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hadyn

    Had some interesting stories but didn't really add up to a satisfying whole that answered the question, "how did the gun businesses contribute to America's obsession with guns?" Or maybe it did, but there was so much other stuff in there (Sarah Winchester's mystery house) that the message was muddled. Had some interesting stories but didn't really add up to a satisfying whole that answered the question, "how did the gun businesses contribute to America's obsession with guns?" Or maybe it did, but there was so much other stuff in there (Sarah Winchester's mystery house) that the message was muddled.

  26. 5 out of 5

    AngiJo

    Haag tells a very interesting story about how the gun industry started in America. And it is a story that every American should know. I was surprised really surprised and entertained by the history lesson. Very very interesting. That said, I found the author a bit long-winded and repetitive. So much that I couldn't get through the book. This review is about the first 1/3 or so. Haag tells a very interesting story about how the gun industry started in America. And it is a story that every American should know. I was surprised really surprised and entertained by the history lesson. Very very interesting. That said, I found the author a bit long-winded and repetitive. So much that I couldn't get through the book. This review is about the first 1/3 or so.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Atif Taj

    The multigenerational over the course of centuries, the gun story is about business. The capitalism of Winchester’s, Colts, Remingtons, and Wesson’s brought gory circumstances. The legislation will always be tricked unless gun issue will be looked from pure business point of view and gun manufacturers will be treated the same way as any other business owners.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    this was really solid non fiction. I loved the of Sarah Winchester's life parallel to the industry, I knew of her but not really her struggle until I read this. looked at the history of American gun culture through so many lenses. highly recommend. this was really solid non fiction. I loved the of Sarah Winchester's life parallel to the industry, I knew of her but not really her struggle until I read this. looked at the history of American gun culture through so many lenses. highly recommend.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    It was an interesting book, but I think that it attempted to do more than its initial goal. My favourite chapters were the last chapter, and the epilogue, where it was discussing potential methods of tackling gun violence from the manufacturing point of view.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Why-why

    I could have done without the parts on Sarah Winchester and the Mystery House. Rather than contrasting the (his-)tory of the gun industry with the "ghosts" of the gun industry, I would have found it more informative to juxtapose the gun industry against the general history of commerce and industrialization. At around WWI the book transitions from a focus on gun production to cultural production in modern American gun culture. Readers are left to wonder what becomes of the business of the gun ind I could have done without the parts on Sarah Winchester and the Mystery House. Rather than contrasting the (his-)tory of the gun industry with the "ghosts" of the gun industry, I would have found it more informative to juxtapose the gun industry against the general history of commerce and industrialization. At around WWI the book transitions from a focus on gun production to cultural production in modern American gun culture. Readers are left to wonder what becomes of the business of the gun industry in the U.S. in the modern era.

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