For nearly a thousand years, the gun has played a key role in shaping histories, societies, and lives. Incalculable sums of creativity, innovation, and design have been dedicated to this tool which continues to evolve in unexpected ways. While the gun has always been valued for its usefulness in hunting, sport, and war, it has also been appreciated—even fetishized—for its aesthetic appeal. Nevertheless, the gun is an object whose primary function is to kill.
Its destructive and deadly purpose imbues the gun with a unique potency—both symbolic and real. Hence, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to consider the gun as just another tool or designed object. Over time, social, political, and economic forces—particularly in the United States—have created a context that often forces individuals into “pro-gun” and “anti-gun” factions, leaving little room to critically study the gun as an object or consider the complexity of various perspectives.
Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 875 million small arms throughout the world. As this number continues to climb and the surrounding debate only grows more polarized, it is time to holistically examine the past, present, and future of the gun.