The United States has more guns than people – a condition that is “unprecedented in world history.” Scholars often focus on gun culture, the Second Amendment, or the history of gun safety, duties, and rights. Often, people assume that the number of guns is a natural state – the guns were always there. But were the guns always there? What caused the drastic boom in firearms, and when did it happen?
In Gun Country: Gun Capitalism, Culture, and Control in Cold War America (UNC Press, 2023), Dr. Andrew McKevitt investigates how and when the guns arrived – and why so many people bought them. McKevitt argues that what Americans refer to as “gun culture” in the 21st century “emerged out of the intersections of the Cold War and consumer capitalism in the 1950s and 1960s.” A booming consumer market following World War II coupled with a surplus of cheap firearms readily available for American entrepreneurs to resell to citizens laid the groundwork for rampant firearm distribution in the country. War made the United States into a “gun country” but US gun politics – “interwoven with struggles over race and gender” cannot be detached from consumer politics. Gun safety and gun rights organizations both demand consumer regulation and protection.
Dr. Andrew C. McKevitt is the John D. Winters Endowed Professor of History at Louisiana Tech University. His previous book, Consuming Japan: Popular Culture and the Globalizing of 1980s America was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2017 (New Books Network interview with Matthew Johnson) and he received the Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.
George Lobis served as the editorial assistant for this podcast.
Susan Liebell is a Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.