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Firearms designer John Browning submitted this design for the M1911 pistol to the U.S. Patent Office in September 1910. (Courtesy William Morrow)

A Posthumous Tribute To Guns From A Sniper Shot To Death

by NPR Staff
Jun 16, 2013 (All Things Considered)

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Teddy Roosevelt poses with his favorite gun, a Winchester 1876 Deluxe, in 1895. John Browning submitted his M1911 designs to the U.S. Patent Office in September 1910. American Gun cover Author Chris Kyle and his wife, Taya, in Sedona, Ariz. Chris was killed in February 2013.

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A killing on a Texas gun range in February captured the headlines. The victim was Chris Kyle, considered by many to be the most deadly sniper in American military history.

The man who admitted to killing him was a veteran as well — a young, disturbed man who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kyle, an outspoken advocate for both veterans and gun rights, wrote American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. When he died in February, he was in the midst of writing a book about the history of firearms in America. That book, American Gun, has been published posthumously. It traces the history of the country through the lens of 10 historic guns.

The book begins with an account of how a gun called the American long rifle, also known as the Kentucky rifle, helped win the Revolutionary War. At the Battle of Saratoga, an American sniper hidden in a tree killed a British general with a long rifle. Without a leader, the British forces fell into disarray and had to retreat. The Americans went on to win the battle and eventually, with the help of the French, the war.

The book also features the M1 Garand rifle, used by the Allies in World War II; the Thompson submachine gun — or Tommy Gun — that terrorized the streets in the early part of the 20th century; and the M16 rifle Kyle himself carried in Iraq.

Kyle's wife, Taya Kyle, wrote the introduction to the new book. She tells NPR's Jacki Lyden how American Gun carries on her husband's legacy. The book's co-author, William Doyle, tells Lyden that each gun in the book changed history.


Interview Highlights

On Chris Kyle's philosophy about guns

William Doyle: "In our book, Chris wrote: 'Whether they're used in war or for keeping the peace, guns are just tools, and like any tool, the way they're used reflects the society they're part of. As times change, guns have evolved. If you don't like guns, blame them on the society they're a part of.' "

On the role guns play in our lives

William Doyle: "Chris Kyle made me realize that at the same time we're very aware, and we should be, of the tragedies that can occur when guns are in the wrong hands, Chris reminded me very much that my life depends on guns. My life walking out on the street here in New York City depends on a man or woman with a gun three blocks away and their ability to defend me against evil."

On Chris Kyle's self-image

Taya Kyle: "He always saw himself as just an everyday guy in different situations. And he had a tool. There are always everyday people in extraordinary situations throughout our history who use the tools available to them to change history, and it was just a perfect fit for what he'd been reflecting on."

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