A lucid, straightforward, and well-researched and -reported work, American Gun promises, via its back cover, “fairness and compassion.” By the book’s end, I found myself wondering why fairness is a worthy goal here. I don’t know what fairness we owe these manufacturers or the individuals who buy their products. There is no argument here—compassionate or otherwise—that can explain why an everyday person needs a weapon designed solely to kill as many people as possible in seconds. And that’s because no defensible argument exists.
And it’s not just mass shootings. Guns are implicated regularly in suicide, domestic abuse, and accidents. All of it needless. There are those who loudly maintain that their rights as responsible gun owners are infringed by any kind of regulation, and such individuals will always be the most culpable enablers of this violence. Behind them only slightly are the manufacturers themselves, who rely on paranoia and insecurity to drive sales and reap profits.
Meanwhile, on the message board website ar15.com, posters are debating Jason Aldean’s new belligerent single, “Try That in a Small Town.” The song and its music video threaten vigilante violence through jingoistic lyrics and dog whistle politics. “Not a big fan of the song but like the message. Leftists aren’t people anymore,” one writes approvingly. But for others, Aldean will never be truly on their side because of his comments after the Las Vegas massacre: “Isn’t this the same douche canoe who said guns ‘were too easy to get’ a few years back? fuck him.” In the world of the AR-15, not only are political enemies actively dehumanized and worthy of slaughter, but even surviving a mass shooting yourself is no grounds for sympathy or understanding. All that matters is guns—getting them, keeping them, and inevitably wielding them.
— Colin Dickey in The Curse of the Ar-15