A first-person look at the perils and thrills of gun ownership
The day after the Newtown, I wrote a blog post titled "Dumb Fucking Gun Nuts." It began by noting that I'm a gun owner myself. It's a .22 semiautomatic rifle that an old girlfriend, raised in a gun family, bought me years ago. The rifle's been sitting in a black vinyl zip-up bag I left in my father's attic almost ever since. I don't have any ammunition. But I think guns are fun to shoot. And I thought that gun owners so enthralled by their AR-15s that they couldn't acknowledge that giving up such weapons might be worth it in order to keep them away from people like Adam Lanza were, as I said, dumb gun nuts. Given what passes for the debate about guns—NRA chieftain Wayne LaPierre's Starship Troopers school-improvement scheme on the one hand and liberal pop Freudianism on the other—my blog post passed for nuance. So Bookforum rushed me a copy of Dan Baum's Gun Guys, the most intriguing of a new crop of books about Americans and guns, to read over Christmas.
Baum presents himself as a comic figure, bespectacled and pleated and wimpy, but the truth is that he's a gun guy himself—albeit a conflicted, liberal one. That renders him well positioned to report on the American gun scene. His Smoke and Mirrors (1996) is a masterful work of investigative journalism on the drug war, while Nine Lives (2009) contains some of the best narrative nonfiction about New Orleans post-Katrina. Gun Guys is a little bit of both.
Baum gathers and sifts data, discovering, for instance, that what his anecdotal evidence suggests—the app on his phone called Gun Store Finder keeps leading him to
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