Weird History

The 1972 "Gun Rights Bible" That Single-Handedly Transformed America's Relationship With Firearms

One book published in 1972 transformed how Americans think about guns – and gave powerful ammunition to the NRA. Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense taught a toxic combination of fear, firearms, and manliness that told men to be aggressive and ruthless in confronting crime with their guns. 

The NRA in the 1970s tripled in size, as Americans terrified of serial killers and the crime wave purchased guns. By 1977, more than half of American households had a firearm. Principles of Personal Defense, the book that influenced the NRA, taught Americans to be terrified of violent sociopaths lurking in every neighborhood. Gun-owning celebrities like Clint Eastwood even got in on the praise-guns action. 

How did the NRA start promoting fear? Why is the NRA so powerful today? Jeff Cooper’s book taught the NRA the power of using fear to sell guns.