Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson - American Gun (Ferry Building Store)

Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson

American Gun

In-Person Event • Book Passage (SF Ferry Building)

Sun., May 19th, 2024 • 2:00pm PT

This event is free to attend and will be hosted in-person at Book Passage's SF Ferry Building Store. Please contact with questions regarding events.

A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

“A magisterial work of narrative history and original reportage . . . You can feel the tension building one cold, catastrophic fact at a time . . . A virtually unprecedented achievement.” —Mike Spies, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

Washington Post top 50 nonfiction book of 2023 | Short-listed for the Zócalo Book Prize

One of The New York Times’ 33 nonfiction books to read this fall | One of Esquires best books of fall | A Kirkus Reviews best nonfiction book of 2023

Named a most anticipated book of the fall by The Washington PostLos Angeles Times, and Bloomberg

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 presents the epic history of America’s most controversial weapon.

In the 1950s, an obsessive firearms designer named Eugene Stoner invented the AR-15 rifle in a California garage. High-minded and patriotic, Stoner sought to devise a lightweight, easy-to-use weapon that could replace the M1s touted by soldiers in World War II. What he did create was a lethal handheld icon of the American century.

In American Gun, the veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson track the AR-15 from inception to ubiquity. How did the same gun represent the essence of freedom to millions of Americans and the essence of evil to millions more? To answer this question, McWhirter and Elinson follow Stoner—the American Kalashnikov—as he struggled mightily to win support for his invention, which under the name M16 would become standard equipment in Vietnam. Shunned by gun owners at first, the rifle’s popularity would take off thanks to a renegade band of small-time gun makers. And in the 2000s, it would become the weapon of choice for mass shooters, prompting widespread calls for proscription even as the gun industry embraced it as a financial savior. Writing with fairness and compassion, McWhirter and Elinson explore America’s gun culture, revealing the deep appeal of the AR-15, the awful havoc it wreaks, and the politics of reducing its toll. The result is a moral history of contemporary America’s love affair with technology, freedom, and weaponry.

Includes 8 pages of black-and-white images.


Cameron McWhirter is a national reporter for The Wall Street Journal, based in Atlanta. He has covered mass shootings, violent protests and natural disasters across the South. He is also the author of Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America. Previously, he reported for other publications in the U.S., as well as Bosnia, Iraq, and Ethiopia.

Zusha Elinson is a national reporter for The Wall Street Journal based in San Francisco who writes about guns and violence. A longtime Bay Area resident, Elinson has also written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, The New York Times Bay Area section, and the Oakland Post


"A magisterial work of narrative history and original reportage . . . [Written] in calm, precise language that allows the authors’ exhaustive research to shine through . . . You can feel the tension building one cold, catastrophic fact at a time . . . Among the authors’ feats of reportage was getting gun company executives and entrepreneurs to speak candidly on the record, a virtually unprecedented achievement . . . American Gun lays out the unvarnished truth." —Mike Spies, The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

"A deeply reported, engrossing account . . . American Gun immerses in shifting politics and their exploitation by the firearms industry . . . [The book] adds valuable context as we reckon with the indelible and ongoing impact of a uniquely American gun." —Mark Follman, The Washington Post




Cameron McWhirter photo courtesy of the author. Zusha Elinson photo courtesy of the author.


Book Passage Ferry Building
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 By Cameron McWhirter, Zusha Elinson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374103859
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title for More Details
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 26th, 2023