Beginning with the story of ``Eddie'' Purdy, who killed five children in a California schoolyard and then turned his AK-47 assault rifle on himself, Davidson (Broken Heartland, 1990) writes what at first seems an emotional antigun tract. In fact, it is something much more interesting: a detailed examination of political influence as wielded by perhaps the most powerful of special interests--the National Rifle Association. Davidson begins by sketching the NRA's beginnings as a group promoting military rifle-practice, and its gradual metamorphosis into an organization for hunters and civilian target-shooters. It was only in the 1970's, under the leadership of Harlon Carter--a controversial Texan who nearly tripled NRA membership during his tenure--that Second Amendment absolutism became the organization's raison d'àtre. Most of the text is a fascinating analysis of the origins of the gun lobby's legendary clout--in effect, a graduate course in real-world politics. Davidson follows the progress through Congress of various gun-control bills; details the NRA's response (from procedural fights to concerted efforts to oust unsympathetic legislators); examines the changing nature of the antigun movement; and records the split between the NRA and many law-enforcement professionals. And while the author believes in the necessity of some form of gun control, he points out distortions and loaded statistics used by gun-law advocates, as well as the NRA's readiness to demonize its opponents. Unlikely to change the minds of hard-liners on either side of the gun debate; but, still, a fascinating study of the practical application of political power.