• Molly Callahan

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Molly Callahan. A white woman with short, curly brown hair, wearing glasses and a blue sweater, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Molly Callahan began her career at a small, family-owned newspaper where the newsroom housed computers that used floppy disks. Since then, her work has been picked up by the Associated Press and recognized by the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2016, she moved into a communications role at Northeastern University as part of its News@Northeastern reporting team. When she's not writing, Molly can be found rock climbing, biking around the city, or hanging out with her fiancée, Morgan, and their cat, Junie B. Jones. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 19 comments on How the AR-15 Divided a Nation

  1. In my opinion, the ultimate and unspoken belief of many Americans who own ARs is that one day they may need to defend themselves and their families from armed aggression, even aggression from an oppressive government or foreign actors.

    When the Ukraine was invaded, the populace was immediately armed by the government who had insufficient forces to adequately protect the citizenry.
    In Taiwan, which faces sooner or later a Chinese invasion, the population is prohibited from owning firearms and will be defenseless. Who will defend them after their meager military is overwhelmed, U. S. Military forces?

    I believe the founders knew that a citizenry bearing arms was the right of a free people and a deterrent to tyranny. The fact that weapons have evolved is not relevant to these rights, for the aggressors will most likely have formidable weapons themselves.

    Again, the fact that a microscopic portion of our society has committed these heinous crimes (where most had significant unstable histories and legally should have never been entitled to possess ARs or similar firearms) does not outweigh the rights of the vast majority of lawful firearms owners to possess them. Once we let the deviant minority determine our rights we are done for.
    Regrettably, life has its risks and the culture of violence and fringe social media are contributing to those who have no concern for others and want to make their pathetic revenge on society by committing mass murder.

    1. It is interesting that there are ~500,000,000+ firearms in this country, there are 34,000 gun related deaths per year. If we overestimate and say that one gun was responsible for each death (usually one firearm is responsible for multiple deaths, not through mass shootings, but from criminals willing to commit murder using the firearm in multiple instances) and we stick with suicide being a “violent crime” instead of a failure of mental health system, that would give us 34,000/500,000,000, or 0.000068 or 0.0068% of firearms that cause a death. So if firearms cause the violence and murder, that would mean that 99.9932% of firearms are defective as they did not cause murders.

      In EVERY CASE where such a small portion of something is linked to fatalities, we look at other causes rather than the object. Is it the car’s fault that a person died, or is it it the driver of the car?

      Regretfully BOTH pro gun and anti gun organizations have polarized society over emotional rhetoric instead of the reality and statistics of the situation. But it is a common tactics, especially by and for politicians to get money and stay in power. Think marijuana. Think alcohol back in the 1920s. The list is long: Homosexuality, certain books, specific religions, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, etc., etc.. Play on people’s fears and they will forget everything else.

    2. It doesn’t matter if everyone in Taiwan or Ukraine is armed. Unless they have training an armed citizenry stands no chance against a trained military. Hence that is why the founders put in the words, well regulated militia.
      The founding fathers wrote extensively about their intent with the 2A and it has been roundly ignored. They wanted local and state militias that could stand up to a tyrannical federal government and a trained citizenry that could be mobilized for war with a foreign power. What is going on today is not what they wanted or meant by the 2A.

      1. This thread is the conversation the article missed, and should have been articulated in place of the comment about the conservative-leaning Americans desiring to “stick it to the political left.”

        And in response to the last comment, we should never underestimate the guerilla tactics of those fighting against tyranny. American citizens may not look like a “well-trained militia” in the same manner as a National Guard unit, but I shiver to think what gun-owning Americans would be motivated to do if our own government becomes tyrannical. Bostonians of all people should appreciate this reality, and many desire to own firearms out of principle for this very reason.

      2. Hmmm, that’s what was said back at the time of the Revolutionary War when a nascent country’s citizenship beat what was then the most powerful military in the world. Skip forward a couple of centuries and a small backward nation beat not only the second most powerful nation in the world but proceeded to beat the most powerful nation in the world (to wit: Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, and the US and its allies) with old out-dated, weaponry.

        And doing some old-time sentence diagramming of the 2A yields the true meaning of its purpose.

  2. Regretfully it is is sad that real root causes only received a passing mention. BUT, that is more than they receive in most pieces on this topic. Blaming firearms for violence is similar to the myopic blaming hypodermic syringes for drug addiction. They may be a prominent face of their respective issue, but they are far from the real causes. It is much like trying to treat HIV/AIDS by treating pneumonia symptoms.

    They are also easy political targets compared to real root causes. Fix the mental health system? Fix the failing public education system? Fix the massive inequity? Fix unemployment/underemployment? That would all take too much work, and offend the oligarchy, especially when you can just yell “ban guns!” or “save guns!” and start ringing in the massive donations for your next campaign. Just another casualty of our political expediency focused system.

    While the NRA did “claim” Republicans, the groups on the other side of the issue also readily claimed Democrats. Blaming purely the NRA is very narrow minded and really limits the true discussion of how firearms came to define BOTH parties. the real issue is “If you are REALLY a then you MUST support gun policy!” And so then also no need to discuss mental health care, public education, inequity, etc. It is the ultimate red herring, much like like yelling “squirrel!” around dogs.

    Until we can get back to politicians that are willing to fix real problems instead of just whatever fills the campaign chest, and an electorate that will force them too, VIOLENCE (not just GUN violence) will continue to increase. While people are distracted by symptoms, we are returning to 1920s society of the few really wealthy and the majority poor and desperate and willing to do whatever to survive. And no – that isn’t just the Republicans’ fault, we have THRICE had Democratically controlled Congress and White House since the disaster of Reaganomics was adopted, And not ONCE have the Democrats acted to truly reverse that policy. Why bother when you can get rich and keep getting elected by smoke and mirrors of hyperbole sound bytes.

    For reference, no I am not Republican, and no longer a Democrat for these exact reasons. I grew up a Democrat in Idaho, back in the day when Democrats and Republicans were often best hunting buddies. There is simply too much emotional hyperbole from both parties and a lack of substance to support either. I am that new class of voter we need more of (and candidates to match) – the liberal independent.

  3. This is the topic and article you select for the cover of the summer edition of the alumni magazine. Of all the the areas you could put on the cover. Bostonia needs some attention on their content and layout. I also don’t think anyone really finds this research all that interesting.

  4. I was very pleased to see this article. As a BU alumnus with PhD in Religious Studies, I am working on a book looking at America’s gun culture as a “gun religion,” and all the information in this article is highly relevant to my own effort. My own analysis is that this “culture,” “religion,” or however you want to characterize it has roots that far precede the 1960s and the NRA turn toward politics highlighted in the article. I see America as a country built on racism and violence in which the glorification of guns enables the perpetuation of a racist, patriarchal social order through perpetual violence. This is what I will be exploring. Thanks to Molly Callahan, Cari Babitzke, and Jonathan Jay for sharing their insights.

    1. Mr. Strmiska,
      Your book will be tainted by your flawed observation that America is a country built on racism and violence. The founding documents of this nation from the disagreements with our mother country (Declaration of Independence) to the governing documents (Articles of Confederation and later the Constitution) are not exactly steeped in racism or violence. The nation was built on commerce and trade. The gilded age was the result of rapid industrialization in which entrepreneurs met the needs of consumers by mass production. Racism and violence are really not a great business model for building anything. The Soviet Union was built on violence, racism, and fear. It went nowhere.

      The self-loathing attitude you have toward this country is nothing new, it has dominated the Progressive movement since its beginnings in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. The right to keep and bear arms was always a good idea in a country that did not want standing armies. In nature we have a right to defend ourselves, gun ownership is just an extension of that natural right. This idea that if the NRA and other 2nd Amendment advocates were to go away, the vast majority of U.S. Citizens would be on board with abolishing the right to private firearm ownership is laughable. Equating gun ownership as a religion is also just as ludicrous. Most gun owners do not think about their guns any more than they think about the hammer in their toolbox. They are not obsessed with the matter, it does not dominant their daily life.

      So good luck with that book, I’m sure there is an audience somewhere that goes for that kind of thing- unless they have succumbed to all that racism and violence.

      1. Well stated, Mr. Rollins.

        I often find that the Left, after excoriating those of us on the Right (and, as you point out so well, our country) as being racist and selfish social-Neanderthals (e.g., Hilliary Clinton’s divisive rhetoric of “deplorables and irredeemables”, President Obama’s “bitter clingers”), fail in acknowledging their own biases.

        It’s simply an exercise in “Otherizing”. We’ve seen, from history, what happens if that is allowed to continue it’s not pretty.

        And by reading your comments, and others reading mine, the true cause of what the author writes about is totally ignored and Progressives’ biases totally ignore:

        It is the heart, soul, and mind of those who wantonly decide that it is within their rights to take the lives of others that is the fault – not a simple inanimate object.

        It is the decision of a sentient (and I use that word in jest) that brings about an abhorrent action that is the problem. Until that root cause is fixed (the lack of humanity and respect to others), this issue of taking lives is not going away. Sadly, with the “transfomation” away from traditional American mores and norms, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

        This is a human problem, not a gun problem, and the author ignored it completely.

  5. I was ALSO raised by people who had a deep respect for firearms. They (and I) are not uncomfortable with the ubiquity and lethality of firearms. Emphasizing as such, to me, assigns far too much blame to the firearms themselves, and not the circumstances that lead people to commit these heinous acts of violence. These circumstances are where we find discomfort. Mass shootings are a symptom of a society without support structures.

    On a different note –

    I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but what frustrates me regarding gun control is how poorly written most bills are. They aren’t common sense. They’re almost always poor taxes.

    The process to get a firearm license in New York City is an arduous, yearlong, expensive process that’s only realistically achievable by rich individuals or those who “have a buddy” in the NYPD.

    In Massachusetts, I had to wait 7 months to get my license. When Maura can’t get a bill passed, she CAN put top-down pressure on defunding and understaffing MA’s Firearms Records Bureau.
    I’m the perfect candidate for a firearm license – well-educated, clean record, a regular volunteer, and willing to follow MA’s complex regulations to the letter of the law.

    After taking a training course, writing a letter of intent, completing an application, recording 5 character witnesses, having a police interview, spending $200, getting fingerprinted, passing a state AND federal background check, AND a Department of Mental Health check (the latter three took 6 of the 7 months), I finally get my license.
    I am then limited on what I can purchase by “the roster”. Firearms on this roster must have certain arbitrary “safety” characteristics uncommon on commonly produced firearms. Firearm manufacturers often see this market as not worthwhile, nor do they want to pay the state (and donate multiple copies of the firearm!) for a chance that it’ll make it onto the roster.
    When I decide on and purchase a gun, I pay a premium, since I’m in Massachusetts, as insurance, state regulations, and most towns’ zoning laws make “gun stores” incredibly expensive and difficult to run. I must pass an FBI background check before I can walk out with the firearm, and it is mandatory that I add it to Massachusetts’ gun registry.

    And to top it all off, I’m limited to low-capacity magazines.

    Of course, the police are exempt from most of these laws.

    When bills come into the House requiring things like serialization of magazines, or microstamping (technologies that nearly don’t exist), they just don’t seem fair. Sure, these things can be had, but at an extreme premium. Is this acceptable? To make gun legislation that excludes all but the wealthy?

    Take a look at MA’s recent House Bill HD.4420 – if you have the time, give it a real, long read. If you have ANY familiarity with firearms, it will be of the utmost clarity that this bill was written in bad faith.

    Until we see a reasonable bill from the Democrats, this will continue to be a partisan issue, and law-abiding gun owners that align with neither party will be forced to “back the Republicans”.

    1. Move here to NH, the “Live Free or Die” State (“…death is not the worst of all evils.”) that treats the Second Amendment as a co-equal to all the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights (wish we’d dump the 17th but that’s another story).

      The NH Constitution, Article 2-a, says what the Second Amendments states but far more clearly and in the right priority:

      “All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.”

      Defense of self, defense of loved ones, defense of their property. The State comes last.

  6. Bostonia.

    Can you tell the alumni and the student body why the Bostonia issue just after commencement does not show graduation, does not recognize a class having survived the pandemic but this cover. What are you all thinking. No one cares about this issue. It is not a BU issue.

  7. I applaud Ms. Callahan for writing a well-balanced article. It is remarkably free from distortions and omissions I’ve come to expect from publications on gun violence. Many are written by people who do not go to the trouble of understanding the subject: guns and good people who like them. Said people get rightly upset by rookie mistakes committed by authors, and those mistakes make it easy to ignore the substance.

    There’s just one imprecise statement in this article: “the wartime rifles on which they were modeled can fire up to 30 rounds at a distance of a half mile.” Who cares that the car on which the Mustang is based could go 220 mph? What matters for public policy is that the production Mustang can only do 120.

    One could also theorize that it was precisely the fixation of the gun-control advocates on the AR-15 that made it such a mascot.

  8. I’m just wondering why this Bostonia article from August 9th is linked at the top of my BU Today daily email (Sept 26)…. Why the 7-week disparity, and aren’t these two separate publications?

    1. Hi, a fair question. Bostonia articles appear in our print magazine Bostonia for alumni and are first posted on our Bostonia website, which can be found here (https://www.bu.edu/bostonia/). But often times those articles don’t run in our BU Today email until weeks later. This article appears in our Summer Bostonia issue, but we waited until the school year had begun to post it in BU Today. I hope that explains it. Thank you. Doug Most, executive editor

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