Gun promoters are posing with weapons on social media using the #tactical hashtag. Picture: Instagram @protein_hottest
Gun promoters are posing with weapons on social media using the #tactical hashtag. Picture: Instagram @protein_hottest

‘Gun porn’ taking over Instagram

It's no secret America is facing a gun violence epidemic.

There were 39,773 gun deaths in the US in 2017 - the highest on record in the country, according to the Washington Post Magazine - and more than 2700 this year alone.

Last year there were 340 mass shootings, including a spate of bloody school shootings.

The grim statistic prompted CNN to claim that at one stage in 2018, there was the equivalent of one school shooting per week.

But in the face of that undeniable crisis, there's a growing number of young Americans unapologetically flaunting their "gun fetish" on social media.

Washington Post Magazine recently lifted the lid on the alarming subculture in a lengthy investigation by reporter Simon van Zuylen-Wood.

In it, he reveals the way more and more young Americans are glorifying deadly weapons using the #tactical hashtag.

"What's in vogue are semiautos. Sleek high-capacity weapons originally designed for military use and now favoured by school shooters. The preferred gun of mass murderers - the AR-15 - is also the preferred gun of the sexy Millennials of Instagram," van Zuylen-Wood writes.

Millenials are posing with weapons on social media using the #tactical hashtag. Picture: Instagram @protein_hottest
Millenials are posing with weapons on social media using the #tactical hashtag. Picture: Instagram @protein_hottest

As part of the piece, van Zuylen-Wood interviews Mat Best, the "de facto leader" of the "tactical" movement.

The 32-year-old former Army Ranger boasts a 673,000-strong Instagram following, which he has built up thanks to countless pictures and videos of himself surrounded by guns.

Then there's 35-year-old entrepreneur Amy Robbins whose women's activewear rage Alexo Athletica is designed to allow women to carry concealed weapons during workouts.

Thousands of people post gun snaps each day. Picture: Instagram
Thousands of people post gun snaps each day. Picture: Instagram

Ms Robbins also posts photos of glamorous women holding guns while wearing everything from ball gowns and heels to sportswear to her 29,400 followers.

She told the publication most of the "soccer mums" in her circle were licensed gun owners who jumped at the chance to carry their weapons in their body - and look good doing it.

"We literally launched right at the height of the #MeToo movement. We knew these statistics, we know this stuff has been happening," she said.

"To me, gun rights are women's rights. What better way to say, 'Yes, we are equals', than to actually put yourself on an equal playing field with a man who might be a threat in your life."

Meanwhile, Mr Best justifies his pro-gun Insta fame by claiming while he had "seen humanity at its worst", gun ownership was about protection as well as a lifestyle choice.

He also uses that lifestyle to sell coffee as the co-founder and "public face" of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

But it's not just business owners using the hashtag and jumping on the pro-gun social media trend.

According to van Zuylen-Wood, there are "thousands" of people in the tactical community who post similar content on their platforms each day - especially scantily-clad women like Casey Cook (aka @buff_cookie), and entire accounts dedicated to showcasing women with guns, like @machinegungirls and @bunswithgun.

The comments on these accounts are overwhelmingly positive and most likely moderated.

Ms Robbins' account, for example, is filled with glowing praise about her looks, style and agenda.

"Wow I think I love you" is one of many gushing comments left on a picture of her firing a gun into a desert sunset in heels, while the most critical comments news.com.au found on Mr Best's account was that "a real man doesn't need a gun".

But that doesn't mean the trend doesn't have its share of vocal critics.

Many readers left critical comments under the Washington Post article, with one reader claiming the trend was "gun porn" and the photos were "obscene" and left them "appalled".

"I accept these people have a right to own guns and live as they live. But their frivolity in the face of a public health epidemic of gun violence smacks of white privilege," that reader posted, while another asked: "Why in heaven's name are you giving these twisted psychopaths a national platform?"

The US is becoming more and more divided over the issue of gun control.

But with 55 mass shootings this year alone, and the growing strength of the tactical community, it's unlikely there will be a solution any time soon.

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au


Massive three-day drugs, weapons bust bags 309 charges

premium_icon Massive three-day drugs, weapons bust bags 309 charges

Police have charged 45 people on 309 drug, property, and weapon offences.

‘My dog saved my life’: Amazing house fire rescue

premium_icon ‘My dog saved my life’: Amazing house fire rescue

'My dog was nosing under my arm and lifting my arm up.'

Cows on the road? What you need to know

premium_icon Cows on the road? What you need to know

Police explain what happens when stray livestock wander onto roads.