7 Books About Gun Control To Help You Understand The Debate

by Sadie Trombetta

Over the weekend, Americans witnessed the 377th mass shooting of 2017 when a domestic terrorist took the lives of 28 men, women, and children while injuring another 30 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas. If you're still trying to figure out how tragic events like this happen so often in our country, these 7 essential books about guns can help you understand their violent history and the ongoing fight to control them.

One of the most divisive issues in America today, the debate over gun control comes into full view following a tragic event like Sunday's church shooting. Gun advocates are quick to imply that less regulation and more private gun ownership can help prevent mass shootings, but the majority of Americans disagree. According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll following October's mass shooting in Las Vegas, 64% of voters are in favor of stricter gun laws.

Politicians, many of whom deflect questions about the issue by insisting the aftermath of a tragedy is "not the time to talk about gun control," are quick to share their thoughts and prayers with the victims and their families, but millions of people around the country are now demanding something more from the government: stricter regulations for firearms.

To help arm you in the debate over firearm control and regulation, here are seven essential reads about guns and their complicated and violent history in the United States.

'The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know' by Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss

One of the most enlightening installments of Oxford's acclaimed What Everyone Needs to Know series, The Gun Debate offers a clear-eyed view of one of the country's most polarizing issues. In it, economist Philip J. Cook and political scientist Kristin A. Goss examine the history of guns in the United States, as well as the most recent research and data on gun ownership, firearm violence, the gun industry, and public policy aimed at restriction. Written in the style of question-and-answer, it is an accessible, straightforward resource of anyone who is struggling to understand the issues of guns, violence, and politics in America.

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'Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America' by Adam Winkler

In this thought-provoking history of gun control and the right to bear arms, constitutional law professor Adam Winkler examines the complicated relationship between American's love of firearms and their ongoing battle to control them. Using the six-year court battle of District of Columbia v Heller that resulted in the reversal of D.C.'s handgun ban, Gunfight dissects the Second Amendment and the intersection of constitutional law and gun control. Informative and engaging, Gunfight sheds a new light on an old debate.

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'Private Guns, Public Health' by David Hemenway

In this myth-busting book on gun violence, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center David Hemenway approaches the controversial issue as a public-health problem. Using accessible research and engaging fact-based arguments, he clearly and convincingly lays out a plan to reduce death and injury from gun violence in the United States. Smart, compelling, and essential, Private Guns, Public Health is a must-read.

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'Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline' by Jennifer Carlson

To better understand the pro-gun sentiment in America, sociologist and writer Jennifer Carlson jumped feet-first into the world of gun carriers. Drawing from her first-hand experiences at pro-gun rallies, firearm training classes, and NRA events, Carlson reveals in intimate detail the social practice of carrying guns as a part of everyday life. Fascinating and informative, Citizen-Protector might change the way you see the relationship between Americans and their firearms.

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'The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture' by Pamela Haag

To understand the current state of guns in America, it's crucial to know about their past, which is exactly what Pamela Haag's fascinating book on the history of firearms does. In The Gunning of America, Haug examines 150 years of the Winchester Repeating Arms company, one of the biggest and most famous firearms manufacturers in the country. In doing so, she reveals how the gun business has shaped the irresistible narrative of America's love of guns and the importance of the right to bear arms in the United States.

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'The Second Amendment: A Biography' by Michael Waldman

At the center of the gun debate lies one of the most controversial provisions of the Bill of Rights: the Second Amendment. In this lively biography of the notorious amendment, Michael Waldman explores its creation, its history, and the ongoing public and political debates around its true meaning. Absorbing and provocative, The Second Amendment should be required reading for anyone entering the debate over guns and gun control.

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'Stand Your Ground: A History of America's Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense' by Caroline Light

One of the most predictable responses following a tragedy like a mass shooting is for pro-gun politicians and activists to advocate for more gun ownership and looser restrictions as a means for prevention. In Stand Your Ground, however, Caroline E. Light explores America's attraction to, history of, and rights to self-defense across the country. Drawing from historical examples and current research, she reveals the unjust violence this "DIY-security" creates, including who it helps — and who it hurts — the most.

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