A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy
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A rising presence in the Democratic Party faces off against the current epidemic of mayhem in America.

Are Americans any more violent than other people? Probably not, suggests Murphy, a senator from Connecticut; the tendency, even instinct, to violent reaction is a human universal. Yet, he asks, “Why is America such a disturbing outlier of violence in the industrialized world?” In this broad-ranging study, his answers are various, from in- and out-group rivalry in a nation of many ethnicities and cultures to the plain fact that guns are entirely too accessible. Murphy’s account proceeds from the grim realities of incidents such as the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state, piled onto other mass shootings, to “the grudge crimes, the domestic assaults, and the suicides” that end in gunshots. The author delivers a few rueful confessions along the way: When he was a member of the House of Representatives, he didn’t pay much attention to the question of gun violence “because the one major city in my congressional district, Waterbury, had very few gun homicides.” Expanding his purview to places like New Haven and Hartford expanded his view of the problem. Murphy also delivers a couple of surprises, such as his view that, for the most part, the current judicial position that the Second Amendment covers individual gun owners is correct—or at least a nonstarter to argue against, since other preventive measures, such as monitoring would-be buyers for criminal records and the like, are available. The author closes his winding but effective narrative, which incorporates everything from the latest federal statistics to scholarly views of human nature, with the observation that the National Rifle Association is becoming politically marginalized and, with it, the GOP. Ultimately, Murphy hopes for the rise of a class of voters “who will decide never to support a candidate who doesn’t support commonsense interventions like universal background checks and assault weapons bans.”

A fair-minded view of a topic that’s as divisive as any in the current political discourse.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-984854-57-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2019