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Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun by A.…

Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun (2015)

by A. J. Somerset

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152647,891 (5)6



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Disclosure: Although I've never met the author in person, we interact on LibraryThing so he is a friend of sorts. I bought this book because I had heard about it from him and he talked about his research during the writing process.

Gun politics in the U.S. is a very polarized topic and I think A. J., who is Canadian, was remarkably even-handed in his examination of why that is. Even-handed, but also direct and cutting through the many propagandistic talking points on gun rights and gun control, clearly calling them out for the nonsense they are.

I grew up in rural Oregon and I have many acquaintances who own guns and have bought into the gun nut culture in one way or another which frustrates me. Once in a while I can get one of them to admit that the issue is complicated, and it feels really gratifying. If only we could talk with and not past each other!

This book was like a quest, a search for a holy grail, the decoder ring that explained gun nuttery. The author, a former gun instructor with the Canadian armed forces, was getting back into shooting after a hiatus of many years, and found that his hobby had become radicalized, and he set out to figure out why. A lot of the why tended to be ideas from their neighbor to the south. Much of the book is about specifically U.S. political history, court decisions, state initiatives, etc and their impact on the loosely affiliated group of guys who like guns.

I learned a lot from this book. Much of what I learned is that the facile arguments I have somewhat identified with on the anti-gun side are simplistic and flawed. But I also got a really entertaining tour through the pro-gun Fever swamps.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who lives in North America and is at all interested in our gun problems. Or, is interested in guns at all. I feel that the last greatest hope we have to move forward on finding sane public policies on gun control is the gun owners and enthusiasts who do not buy into paranoid hype. If they can unite with those of us who don't want to own guns, against the poisonous far right gun nut culture, we can make our country safer for everyone while people can still go hunting, target shooting, civil war reenacting, etc. ( )
3 vote anna_in_pdx | Mar 25, 2016 |
Andrew Somerset is no shrinking violet. This is an individual who served with distinction in his country's armed forces, who hunts regularly and enthusiastically--hardly a bleeding heart liberal. Somerset openly confesses to liking guns, but he doesn't fetishize weapons or insist he has the God-given right to carry a gun in any situation or setting he chooses. Somerset, in other words, is a reasonable man, but many pro gun supporters are NOT; since the 1970s, the National Rifle Association has had its agenda hijacked by a small, vocal minority who work strenuously to sabotage gun laws, resisting any legislation that restricts or regulates firearms. They like to cite the Second Amendment as their validation, even though former Chief Justice Burger--aware the clause only relates to the formation of militias in times of tyranny and civil unrest--called their stance a legal and constitutional "fraud". The author expertly summarizes the history of arms and the American experience, how the two dovetail...and how, somewhere along the way, everything went very, very wrong.

(from my Amazon review) ( )
2 vote CliffBurns | Oct 17, 2015 |
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"Entertaining, often funny, and ultimately an important addition to the limited canon on guns."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 192742867X, Paperback)

"A one-time soldier, Somerset paints a convincing picture . . . self-deprecating, gruff, curmudgeonly."—The Globe and Mail

"Rambling, tragic, and suprisingly funny."—Quill & Quire

The first book to bring ballistics and legal history to bear on gun culture in fiction and film, Arms is the study of a tormented symbol. How did the gun become both an icon of freedom and the badge of vigilantes? Protection against violent crime yet the instigator of it? The sportsman's companion, the survivalist's god? In a cultural history like no other, where Canadian hunter and gun lover A.J. Somerset critiques the careers of ideologues from S.L.A. Marshall through David Grossman—where he traces apocalyptic rhetoric from George Orwell to the Patriot Movement—where he discusses cop ethics, race crimes, domestic coercion, and school shootings—where he takes Quentin Tarantino to task for shoddy spray patterns, muses on John Steinbeck and armed labor strikes, and surveys the rise of fear-culture through the work of Hunter S. Thompson—Arms demonstrates again and again that it's in the gun where North America's most irresolvable tensions explode.

Sharp-eyed, snarky, even-handed, and sportive, Arms is at once a gun lover's tribute to the weapon he adores and a devastating commentary on the rifts it has come to represent.

A.J. Somerset has been a soldier, a technical writer, a programmer, and a freelance photographer. His nonfiction has appeared in numerous outdoor magazines in Canada and the United States. His first novel, Combat Camera, won the Metcalf-Rooke Award.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:19 -0400)

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