On the heels of three more recent mass shootings—in Kalamazoo, Michigan (6 dead), Glendale, Arizona (5 dead), and Hesston, Kansas (4 dead)—we are forced yet again to confront our relationship with weapons and what I—and millions of others—consider to be woefully inadequate gun laws.
Countless books have explored the history of weapons, guns in particular, and their appeal across generations, many of them written with distinct political agendas in mind (both pro- and anti-gun). On March 22, British journalist Iain Overton joined the debate with The Way of the Gun, an investigation of how guns are manufactured, sold, and used throughout the world, from the U.S. to South Africa to Pakistan. Much of the book is personal, some even ideological—in a starred review, we called it “a passionate mix of rhetoric and travelogue”—but the narrative is a welcome, emotionally powerful addition to the gun debate. (For another intriguing perspective, that of gun manufacturers, see Pamela Haag’s The Gunning of America, coming April 19.)
Overton traveled to more than 20 countries in search of both hard data and firsthand stories, and for American readers, his heavy focus on the U.S. will be especially helpful. Even the author, who works for a charity called Action on Armed Violence, admits, “guns are fun. I have no doubt about that. When used in the right way and in the right place, they can bring great satisfaction and pleasure.”
Of course, just because they may bring pleasure doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be highly regulated—particularly those guns not used for hunting purposes—and Overton delves into the National Rifle Association’s overly heavy hand in policy direction (or lack thereof). It’s his comparisons with other countries, however, that leave the most lasting impression, and his book should cause renewed conversation in a seemingly intractable debate that should be anything but. Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.