“America’s rifle,” “America’s dog,” & some of America’s other most enduring fictions

(Beth Clifton collage)

Promotions & defenses of the AR-15 and pit bulls are among “America’s big lies”

WASHINGTON DC; KANAB, Utah––An AR-15, as the world knows now, dubbed “America’s rifle,” was on May 24, 2022 used yet again to Americans, this time 19 fourth graders and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

(See Hours after Uvalde school killings, Iowa lawmakers authorize AR-15 deer hunt.)

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.

(Beth Clifton collage)

AR-15 & pit bull mayhem compared to

“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 7-24 surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption.

(See Dog breed census 2021: Labs, hounds top list; pit bulls come in third.)

(Beth Clifton collage)

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.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“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” are their owners, or other victims members of their household.

(See Will there be a Tomb of the Unknown Pit Bull Victim? Body count 2021

Mary Pickford with animals.
(Beth Clifton collage)

“America’s Sweetheart”

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 US, 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.

(See Where the late Bernie Rollin got his garbled “facts” about pit bulls and dog attack deaths & maimings, US & Canada, 1982-2021 log.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“America’s rifle”

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 theater scene in Aurora, Colorado, by a teenaged AR-15 user who killed 12 people and wounded 70, and after the December 14, 2012 mosque 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.”

(Beth & Merritt Clifton)

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.

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