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Firearms have long been at the core of US national narratives. From the Puritans' embrace of such weapons to beat back the devilish Indian to a guilty delight in the illegal exploits of Dirty Harry, Americans have relied on the gun to right wrongs, both real and imagined. The extent to which guns have been woven into the nation's mythology suggests that recent debate may be only partly about guns themselves, and equally about conflicting cultural values and competing national identities. Belying the gun debate are a host of related issues: contesting conceptions of community, the proper relationship between the individual and the state, and the locus of responsibility for maintaining order. This book documents and analyzes the history of firearms in America, exploring various aspects of gun manufacture, ownership and use - and, more importantly, the cultural and political implications which this history reveals. The editors have assembled a diverse array of writings which range from Puritan sermons to NRA documents.
Jan E. Dizard is Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of American Culture at Amherst College. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Going Wild: Hunting, Animal Rights, and the Contested Meaning of Nature. Robert Merrill Muth has worked with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service for many years and is currently Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst