About American Gun
In American Gun, veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson track the AR-15 from its creation by an unknown gun designer in Hollywood to the most popular rifle in America today ― and a gun favored by mass shooters. In 1994, best estimates are that about 400,000 AR-15-type rifles were in civilian hands. Today the best guess is more than 20 million. And it has divided a nation between those who love the invention and those that hate it. How did the same gun come to represent the epitome of freedom to millions of Americans and the embodiment of evil to millions more? To answer this question, McWhirter and Elinson follow inventor Eugene Stoner ― an American Kalashnikov ― as he struggled mightily to win support for his rifle, which under the name M16 would become standard equipment in Vietnam. Shunned by gun owners at first, the rifle’s popularity took thanks to a renegade band of small-time gun makers. And in the 2000s, it would become the weapon of choice for mass shooters, prompting widespread calls for banning it even as the gun industry embraced it as a financial savior.
Writing with fairness and compassion, McWhirter and Elinson explore America’s gun culture, revealing the deep appeal of the AR-15, the brutal havoc it wreaks, and the politics of reducing its toll. The result is a moral history of contemporary America’s love affair with technology, freedom, and weaponry.