Former New York Times reporter and editor Whitney (All The Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters, 2003, etc.) mounts an evenhanded review of the gun issue in the United States.
There’s a gun for every American, writes the author, “about 100 million of them handguns,” and the National Rifle Association has emerged as one of the most powerful lobbies in the country, with outsized political clout. To hear the NRA tell it, gun rights are constantly under assault thanks to a liberal administration, even if President Barack Obama has rarely addressed the topic. Whitney examines the reasons for preserving private ownership of firearms, one being the well-worn constitutional bit about the “well-regulated militia”—though, thanks to an ardently pro-gun Supreme Court, you “don’t have to be part of any militia to exercise it”—and he endorses the broad notion that guns have a role in maintaining liberty, though that role has since been supplanted by still broader notions of self-defense. The author argues that because it is now unconstitutional to ban classes of weapons used in self-defense (including, apparently, machine guns and assault rifles), authorities and citizens would do better to press not for gun control as such, but instead to require training in the use and maintenance of weapons and to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not be holding them. “Instead of fighting chimerical battles,” writes Whitney, “American gun-rights and gun-control enthusiasts should be talking to each other about what can be done…to reduce gun violence, particularly by addressing the criminal and psychopathological behavior patterns that cause it.”
A fresh and balanced argument, though unlikely to convince most NRA members that liberals aren’t the enemy.