The Gun maker's strategy: marketing products to men's basest instincts

Gun advertisers and manufacturers think men are brutes, and sell it that way

By Liz Posner

Published November 19, 2017 1:30PM (EST)

Smith & Wesson handguns.   (AP/John Locher)
Smith & Wesson handguns. (AP/John Locher)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


Guns make men feel powerful and in control. A pull of the trigger can instantly bring death, giving the shooter an ability that is almost godlike. Yet gun culture does not think gun owners want to feel godly, or even like mature, civilized adults in any sense. They are just human, after all, susceptible to all the basest instincts of human nature. Mass marketing, assisted by social media, shows us how pervasively the gun industry turns gun purchasers into brutes.

Whether it’s the multimillion-dollar corporations that manufacture guns or the mom-and-pop internet shops that sell every gun accessory imaginable under the sun, the ways in which gun businesses market their products is morally questionable at best.

1. Sex, sex, sex.

Of all the possible ways to market guns to purchasers, sex might not be the first to come to mind. But in the world of guns, sex sells. Women’s bodies appear in all facets of gun marketing, from the merchandise reviews sporting gun-toting blondes to this shotgun advertisement that looks like it came straight from the cover of a porn parody of Westworld.

Photo Credit: Mother Jones, EEA corp.

2. Fetishizing death.

Gun purchasers overwhelmingly claim to buy their weapons for hunting and self-defense—a far greater combined number than those who simply plan to target-shoot, according to Pew Research Center. Guns are designed to maim and kill living things, which explains all the morbid imagery like skulls and bones. But shouldn’t we be at least a little concerned about gun purchasers taking such a fetishized view of death?

3. Childish fear of zombies.

Maybe gun lovers don’t actually think lightly of death. Maybe they love skull customization so much because they truly believe in the zombie apocalypse. That would explain why so many gun accessories feature zombies. Popular products like the Zombie X Chainsaw Bayonet (which has no practical use for game hunters, by the way) appear in endless “zombie apocalypse survival kit” blog posts and infographics. As Pacific Standard points out, many of these zombie-themed products aren’t expensive and are marketed to survivalists who are anxious about undesirable types endangering middle-class Americans.


4. Unyielding patriotism.

Blind love for one’s own tribe has fueled many an ethnocentric war throughout human history. Nationalism is just a broader-scale version of tribalism, extended to fit our globalized world. This explains why appealing to love of country is a popular move for weapons manufacturers. The American flag and U.S. Constitution appear throughout gun culture.


But as patriotic as they may be, if their house is broken into, some gun owners will rely only on themselves, thank you very much, not the public-funded police.

Photo Credit:

5. Rampant racism.

Not all gun lovers are racists, but there is plenty of white pride rhetoric among Second Amendment advocates, and racism is deeply embedded in the history of that particular clause. Whether they’re proudly proclaiming to be infidels (specifically, enemies of Islam), or boasting that “Blue Lives Matter,” anyone who hopes to sell such products capitalizes on Americans’ racism. Racism is an ugly extension of tribalism—one the gun industry is more than happy to cash in on.

Liz Posner

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