Slotkin on the Popularity of the AR-15 Rifle

Professor Emeritus Richard Slotkin comments in a Hartford Courant story by Dan Haar ’81 on the immense popularity of the AR-15 rifle. Slotkin says the tradition of American gun ownership stems from the foundation of this country on individual freedom, and the expectation that violence will happen.

“In a sense it goes back to the handgun,” Slotkin said. “We lived in a violent society for a long time.”

Between the Civil War and the New Deal, Slotkin said, we saw the development of automatic weapons and vast production of firearms at a time when there was no gun control, amid the rise of goon squads against labor, urban gangs and other dangers. Upheaval in the ’60s and the drug wars of the ’80s only added to that, and the current movement of anti-government fervor feeds on it, blending extremist views with a rational desire for personal defense.

Slotkin is Richard S. Olin Professor of English and American Studies, emeritus.