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 shuttered
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