How the gun industry started marketing guns to the very people who commit most gun violence

Ryan Busse used to be an executive at one of the nation’s top gun manufacturers. He’s now a fierce opponent of the way the gun industry does business. He has an interesting piece in The Atlantic detailing how the gun industry went from trying to primarily target its marketing to hunters and hobbyists, to selling guns to younger and younger angry men with macho complexes, hair-trigger tempers and ample resentments:

When I got my first job in the gun industry, in 1995, the marketing centered on hunting, target shooting, and responsible self-defense. Many advertisements evoked a love of craftsmanship and the outdoors, and some, like this 1995 Ruger ad (first ad, below), even directly addressed its customers as “responsible citizens”—a tagline the company dropped from its advertising in 2007.

Companies such as the European American Armory, an importer of cheap, mostly Eastern European guns, that used cheesy ads—like this one (second ad, below) from 2008—to sell imported guns were a rarity. Little did I realize that those tacky exceptions were the gun industry’s future.

Those ads, designed to appeal to young men who knew no better, were the starting point for marketing that would create a new customer base and change our country forever.

This transformation received its first boost in the mid-aughts when President George W. Bush allowed the assault-weapons ban to sunset and then signed a bill that gave broad protection from liability to gunmakers. Combined, those moves reduced the social stigma and potential legal penalties for edgy marketing of military-style rifles. Over time, larger, more mainstream gunmakers began to experiment with marketing messages previously relegated to the disfavored fringe of the business.

You can read the rest of the article here.

You can find out more about Busse’s book, “Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry That Radicalized America.” at this link.

Gun sales used to be targeted primarily to hunters and hobbyists.
Now gun sales target primarily young men, the chief drivers of American gun violence.

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