PawPaw--I grew up in the 50's in the mountains of Northwestern Colorado. We all played cowboys and Indians. We had cap pistols and bb guns and 22 rifles. Hunting deer was a big deal and most of the guys couldn't wait till they were old enough to go big game hunting with dad.
I think the culture was a lot different. We watched Audie Murphy movies and played war for hours on end. We did not have realistic toys (no machine guns or M1 rifles), nor video games that were realistic.
Could M1 rifles be purchased by mail years ago? Just asking--I don't know.
The events of the last decade or so seem to be a snowballing phenomenon. The entertainment industry, toy industry, and media are involved.
And one last thought. When I was much younger, I was having a really tough year, and had been drinking a lot. I got into a brawl with my brothers one evening and a gun came out. There was a lot of stuff I didn't remember about that night. A few days later I made an appointment with a counsler. I saw that guy for a few months, and pretty well got my drinking problem taken care of. In light of some of the stuff that the politicians are bantering about, I might be a person that would not be able to own guns. However this proceeds, it is interesting for me to assess what kind of methodolgy might be used to try and ferret out people that would never be able to own firearms.