Criticisms of the “militarization” of American gun culture are commonplace. No group has done more to attack this phenomenon than the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and their 2011 report on “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market.”
In this report they, like many, allege that the militarization of the firearms market is recent and is an intentional strategy of companies needing to sell products in a shrinking marketplace:
In spite of the gauzy imagery of its advertising, the gun industry’s militarization is simply a business strategy aimed at survival: boosting sales and improving the bottom line. The hard commercial fact is that military-style weapons sell in an increasingly narrowly focused civilian gun market. True sporting guns do not.
Among the evidence they present is an advertisement for the FNH USA FN Five-Seven pistol (reproduced in their report and below).
Violence Policy Center, “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market” (2011), p. 3.
As noted in my recent post about the changing themes in gun advertising in The American Rifleman from 1918-2017, I have just finished a replication study based on advertising in Guns magazine from 1955 (when the magazine was founded) through 2019.
It documents the same pattern of decline of “Gun Culture 1.0” themes of hunting and recreational/sport shooting and raise of “Gun Culture 2.0” themes of personal protection and concealed carry.
A pre-publication version of the paper is available for download on SocArXiv Papers. Just two clicks and you can help this paper blow up on SocArXiv.
UPDATE: Thanks to a reader “OK S.” I now have the source of Colt’s “Safety of the Highways” ad. It was published in 1926 in The Lucky Bag, the Annual of the Regiment of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The annual is available at https://archive.org/details/luckybag1926unse/page/566. Consider donating to the Internet Archive!
P.S., If you have any idea where the Colt’s “Safety of the Highways” ad was first published, I am still looking for the source of that. Thanks!
I realized recently that I never posted the published version of my work analyzing gun advertisements in The American Rifleman. It documents the decline of “Gun Culture 1.0” themes of hunting and recreational/sport shooting and rise of “Gun Culture 2.0” themes of personal protection and concealed carry.
So, here is the citation and a link to the book chapter: David Yamane, Sebastian L. Ivory, and Paul C. Yamane, “The Rise of Self-Defense in Gun Advertising: The American Rifleman, 1918-2017,” in Jennifer Carlson, Kristen Goss, and Harel Shapira, eds., Guns: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Politics, Policy, and Practice (New York: Routledge, 2019).
I am currently writing up a replication study using advertisements in Guns magazine from 1955-2019, which I presented at the American Society of Criminology annual meetings in San Francisco this month. I will post a link to that paper when it is ready.