A Former Gun Industry Insider Tells How the AR-15 Conquered AmericaBreaking News
tags: guns, Assault Weapons
As the country continues to absorb the horror of the murder of 19 children in Texas, public attention has refocused on the role that AR-15-style weapons have played in such mass-shooting massacres.
In addition to the Uvalde killer, the young man who allegedly slaughtered 10 people in Buffalo used one. So did Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two protesters in Wisconsin, for which he got acquitted.
But behind all these specific horrors lies an even bigger story. How did AR-15 variants come to occupy such a position of dominance in our culture — and, increasingly, in our everyday lives — in the first place?
The rise of AR-15-style weaponry, which is a semiautomatic civilian version of a military weapon, reflects a growing zeal, at least amid a determined minority in some parts of the country, for the introduction of overtly military-style equipment into civil society.
In that regard, Daniel Defense, the company that manufactured the weapon used in Uvalde, has really pushed the envelope. But this reflects a larger trend of “radicalization” in the industry, argues Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive.
Busse has carved out a niche arguing from inside knowledge that none of this was an accident. He says it was the result of specific choices made by the industry, combined with cultural shifts that created fertile conditions for this transformation.
The gun violence problem goes far beyond mass shootings and assault-style rifles. Right now senators are negotiating reforms that would hopefully address both mass shootings and day-to-day gun murders and suicides.
Yet those reforms will be modest and incremental at best. And given that there are hundreds of millions of guns in circulation in the United States, it’s extremely sobering to consider how vast and intractable the gun violence problem will likely remain for the foreseeable future.
I talked to Busse about all these matters. An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.
Greg Sargent: Salvador Ramos was reportedly an enthusiast of the “Call of Duty” video game. Can you explain how the gun industry has used video games and other similar tactics to try to boost sales of guns like AR-15-style rifles?
Ryan Busse: Twenty years ago, everybody believed the industry was dying. Every marketing person in the industry looked around with some worry about how to reach new market shares.
Probably in the mid-to-late 2000s, you start to see the rise of first-person shooter games, following the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
There was lots of discussion in marketing-planning meetings about how you could get your gun model placed in a movie or a video game. That represented a solution to the problem, which was: How do we attract a new market segment away from this graying, older market segment that’s not growing?
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