Every time there is a mass shooting in America, the first question is why

When we look for answers, we tend to focus on the incident itself: who the shooter was, why they did it, and who parachutes in to debate the state of regulation, or lack thereof, that allowed it to happen. What we forget is the centuries of history that got us to this long emergency of gun violence in America.

Produced by WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, in partnership with The Trace, The Gun Machine looks into the past to bring you a story that most Americans never learned in history class: how early partnerships between mad scientist gunsmiths and a fledgling U.S. government created the gun industry in the Northeast, and how that industry has been partners with the government ever since.  

Host Alain Stephens examines how this 250-year relationship underpins all Americans’ interactions with guns — including our failures in dealing with the fallout of gun violence.

The Gun Machine debuts on Oct. 4, 2023. Listen and follow on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, and wherever you get your podcasts.


Alain Stephens: Maybe you’ve heard that there’s a civil war coming.

Chip Roy: Tyrants disarm the people they intend to oppress. 

Alain Stephens: That with 111 gun deaths a day in America, the powers that be are gonna have to do something. 

U.S. Representative Jim Jordan: They don’t like the Second Amendment. They wanna get rid of the Second Amendment.

Alain Stephens: You’ve heard that the government has always hated an armed populace, that it’s always been that way from Bunker Hill to Branch Davidians.

U.S. Representative Steve Scalise: All they want to do is take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

Tucker Carlson: They’re coming for your firearms.

Alain Stephens: Democrats say they’re held hostage by an all-powerful industry. Republicans say they’re holding an assault on liberty at bay.

Former U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn: In real America, when we say come and take it, we damn well mean it.

Alain Stephens: But in my eight years of gun reporting? These dudes is trippin’.

Newsreel: Guns are flying off the shelves 

Newsreel: Ghost gun mill in Dorchester

Newsreel: Drop the gun!

The Gun Machine interview: Springfield is a bad place, man. It’s no bueno

Alain Stephens: My name is Alain Stephens, and I’m an investigative reporter. I’ve covered federal agents, arms traffickers, and the gun industry. And what if I told you that when it comes to the U.S. government, we’re the biggest gun dealers on the block?

Brian DeLay: It was true in the 1790s during George Washington’s presidency, and it’s true today. 

Alain Stephens: That Uncle Sam subsidizes the gun lobby. 

Rhonda Fields: It was really ugly and it was very nasty.

Alain Stephens: And that you and every single U.S. taxpayer has a vested interest in a gun company right now. 

David Chipman: I felt like I was in the X-Files. They can’t handle the truth. It’s like, well, what am I part of?

Alain Stephens: We’re all part of it. We’re blind to it. But the halls of American power know exactly what I know. That we’re the best at the gun business, and business is good.

The Gun Machine: How America Was Forged by the Gun Industry. From WBUR and The Trace. Wherever you get your podcasts.

The Gun Machine is funded in part by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, with additional support from the Kendeda Fund.