Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Janis Appier

Committee Members

George White, Jr., G. Kurt Piehler


The purpose of this study was to examine the historical roots of America's contemporary fascination with firearms. America's gun cultures reached new heights in the era after World War II due to a renewed focus on the family and national heritage and a growing preoccupation with defending traditional gender roles. In addition, the research reveals that America does not have a monolithic gun culture. Instead, multiple subcultures that flourished in the Cold War era, including one stemming from childhood play, one among recreational gunners and sport hunters, and one that flourished as a result of civil and military defense efforts. The dissertation begins in 1945 with the return of the veterans and concludes with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This era is a critical moment in the development of the nation's gun cultures because it is the last period in which guns receive relatively no criticism and enjoy minimal state or federal regulation. The tragic death of President John F. Kennedy, however, becomes a catalyst for the rise of anti-gun campaigns and signals the end of the last "golden age" for guns. Historians have only studied firearms in relation to the Second Amendment and violence. Unfortunately, studying guns only in the context of the Constitution and aggression has shed little light on America's various gun cultures. Moreover, the story of firearms is not entirely one of violence, particularly in the era immediately following World War Il. Looking at firearm cultures only through this lens distorts America's relationship with guns and this project seeks to evaluate American gun cultures with a new perspective.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

History Commons