Promotions & defenses of the AR-15 and pit bulls are among “America’s big lies”
WASHINGTON D.C.; KANAB, Utah––An AR-15, as the world knows now, dubbed “America’s rifle,” was on May 24, 2022 used yet again to massacre Americans, this time 19 fourth graders and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Earlier in 2022, pit bulls, “America’s dog,” as designated by the Best Friends Animal Society, killed at least a dozen Americans and perhaps as many as 17, depending on how “pit bull” is defined––five each in April and May alone.
AR-15 & pit bull mayhem compared
“Americans now own an estimated 15 million AR-15s,” reported John Schuppe for the NBC News segment America’s rifle: Why so many people love the AR-15.
Americans now own about 4.2 million pit bulls, according to the annual ANIMALS 24-7 surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption.
The 15 million AR-15 “America’s rifles” appear to have been used in an average of about 350 murders per year since 2020: approximately one per 42,857 of the guns.
The 4.2 million “America’s dogs,” or pit bulls, have killed an average of 40 Americans and Canadians per year, disfiguring 270 at levels high 4 and 5 on the Ian Dunbar scale of dog attack severity.
That works out to about one death or disfigurement per 13,548 pit bull-type dogs, not counting Cane Corsos, Presa Canarios, bullmastiffs, and other closely related lookalikes.
Those statistics signify that “America’s dogs” are about three times as dangerous as “America’s rifles,” probably because “America’s rifles” cannot pull their own triggers.
“Active shooters” vs. sound asleep
Using “America’s rifle” to kill classrooms of children, theaters of movie-goers, crowds at a concert, and so forth requires the participation of an “active shooter,” as the FBI calls gun-using mass murderers.
“America’s dog,” by comparison, often kills people while their owners are sound asleep. And about a third of the “America’s dog” victims are their owners, or other members of their household.
How did AR-15s & pit bulls get to be “America’s” anything?
Why are “America’s rifle” and “America’s dog,” so-called, among the most dangerous common possessions of Americans?
Who called them that, and why?
Were Americans, other than gun owners and pit bull advocates, ever polled on the matter?
The story begins in 1851, and demonstrates that from the very beginning, calling anything “America’s” has been introduced, with mercenary ambitions, chiefly to disguise the origins and nature of whatever is so designated.
The New York Yacht Club, founded by John Cox Stevens and eight friends in 1844, initially existed to win prize and gambling money for the founders in races against other clubs.
The most lucrative yachting event of the era was the One Hundred Sovereign Cup, a race around the Isle of Wight at the annual regatta of the Royal Yacht Squadron, founded in 1815. The cup itself was cast in 1848.
Stevens and crew won the cup in 1851 with their schooner America. The New York Yacht Club changed the name to the America’s Cup, successfully defending it in subsequent races until 1983, by which time almost everyone had forgotten that it was not originally America’s at all.
Mary Pickford (1892-1979), arguably the first superstar of the silent film era, and then a successful film producer for decades thereafter, was actually born Gladys Marie Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Stage acting took the entire Smith family to the U.S., where New York producer David Belasco changed Gladys Smith’s name to Mary Pickford in 1907.
Mary Pickford broke into film in 1909, acting in 51 silent movie shorts before the year was out, but her career did not really take off until an unknown publicist dubbed her “America’s Sweetheart” in 1913, in an unabashed appeal to the jingoism of the era.
As she aged, Mary Pickford outgrew the “America’s Sweetheart” billing and was called “Queen of the Movies” instead.
Film industry flacks eventually passed both names to many others, but while Google searching turns up many candidates for “Queen of the Movies,” depending on the era, a search for “America’s Sweetheart” still finds Mary Pickford first in any era.
The Best Friends Animal Society appears to have introduced the term “America’s dog” to promote pit bulls in November 2004, alleging that pit bulls were America’s favorite pets during the silent film era.
ANIMALS 24-7 immediately corrected that notion, having already discovered through searching classified ads that pit bulls, by any name, were never more than 1% of the U.S. dog population before 1980, were already so notoriously dangerous that they were banned in Ogden, Utah, in Best Friends’s home state, by 1909, and that practically the entire mythology that Best Friends’ publicists concocted to push pit bulls was lifted nearly verbatim from Pep: The Story of a Brave Dog, by Clarence Hawke, a 1922 work of fiction by an author who, being blind from childhood, never saw a pit bull in his life.
Undeterred, the Best Friends Animal Society hired publicists to promote their “America’s Dog” campaign, and has not looked back despite the 484 U.S. and Canadian pit bull-inflicted fatalities and almost 5,000 pit bull-inflicted disfigurements occurring in the 17 years since.
AR-15-type semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles became “America’s rifle,” in apparent emulation of publicists’ success in promoting yacht racing, Mary Pickford, and pit bulls, surprisingly recently––after the July 20, 2012 movie theatre massacre in Aurora, Colorado, by a teenaged AR-15 user who killed 12 people and wounded 70, and after the December 14, 2012 massacre of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, also by a teenaged AR-15 user.
Searches of NewsLibrary.com and NewspaperArchive.com turn up no mention of the AR-15 as “America’s rifle” before a Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist used the phrase on October 22, 2014.
That lack of history notwithstanding, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, calling itself “The Firearm Industry Trade Association,” soon posted a defense of the AR-15 called “Understanding America’s Rifle.”
The National Rifle Association and mass media have unquestioningly amplified the phrase ever since.
Yet the Daisy Red Ryder air rifle, introduced in 1938, has eclipsed the AR-15 many times over in cumulative sales. The M1 rifle, also introduced in 1938, may also have outsold the AR-15, despite not having been manufactured in nearly 50 years.
The bottom line is, if you hear anything called “America’s,” chances are it isn’t, and that the appellation “America’s” is at best a deceptive sales pitch.