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How to Make Your Own AR-15

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Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller, in 2008, that comprehensive gun bans were “off the table,” the NRA insisted that because gun owners were becoming complacent, “our firearms freedoms may be in greater danger.” The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill.

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is the author of Gun Guys: A Road Trip, which was published in March by Knopf. His last article for Harper’s Magazine, “Happiness Is a Worn Gun,” appeared in the August 2010 issue.

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