An Important New Book on Gun Violence.

              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published a book, Enough – Solving America’s Gun Violence Crisis, which is both a review of what we know and don’t know about gun violence, as well as a personal manifesto about what needs to be done. In that respect, this book reflects a new, much more confident mood in Gun-control Nation, given how the political landscape has recently changed. After all, it’s less than two decades since the Democratic Party turned its back on gun violence after Al Gore’s loss at the polls, and now you can’t announce for President without making it clear you’ll do something about gun violence if you win the big kahuna next year.

              Gabor’s book is a quick and easy read – he writes clearly and doesn’t overburden the reader with mounds of extraneous text. He also keeps his focus directly on policies and programs which, taken together, represent the agenda of Gun-control Nation, and is honest and objective in terms of evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t worked to reduce gun violence over the past years.

              Finally, although Gabor has a long and distinguished career as an academic, this book is not a dry, academic text. He refers to gun-control activists as ‘peace warriors,’ a particularly arresting phrase, insofar as it links the notion of non-violence together with a militaristic campaign to protect America from its nearly 400-million arsenal of civilian-owned guns.

              In what directions should this campaign now move? The author covers all of the major gun-control initiatives and policies, including licensing gun owners, concealed-carry and stand your ground, safe storage, abolishing PLCCA and other industry protections, banning assault weapons and ‘smart’ guns and red flag laws. For each category he covers experiences and results to date, the intention being to create a ‘roadmap’ of policies and initiatives which can then be followed by gun-control advocates seeking guidance in developing strategies and plans.

              The book concludes with an interesting and unique twist, namely, what Gabor calls a ‘Declaration of Rights’ which could serve as a clarion-call for groups and individuals who want to reduce violence from guns. Basically, the document lists a series of ‘rights’ that everyone should be able to enjoy, flowing from the implementation of effective policies to restrict the use and ownership of guns. These ‘rights’ would include feeling safe, movement in gun-free zones, reliance only on law enforcement for public safety; in other words, a nice counterpoint to the policies which promote gun ‘rights.’ I’m not sure where Gabor is going, organizationally, with this Bill of Rights, but if he puts up a website asking everyone to subscribe to this document, I’ll sign up.

              Of course I never review any book without finding something critical to say, so here goes.  The challenge which this book does not confront is that you can talk all you want about how and why we need more effective gun-control policies, but the problem is how to get from here to there. The devil’s always in the details, so to speak.

The fact that a certain gun law or regulation has been effective within a specific jurisdiction or state, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be effective if extended to all fifty states. The strength of our Federalist system is that it reflects the enormous physical and cultural diversity of this country, and it is simply impossible to assume that out of the experience of one state or locality, we could craft gun-control laws where one size fits all. This is precisely why Gabor’s comparison of America’s gun laws to gun regulations in other countries (e.g., his native Canada) doesn’t work.

That being said, this book delivers enough information (with footnoted references) that it deserves to be purchased and read.  If the 2020 election pushes new gun-control legislation to the fore, Tom Gabor’s book will hopefully help shape the debate. 

Well done.

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3 thoughts on “An Important New Book on Gun Violence.

  1. I just got a copy of the book and have not opened it yet but have a great deal of respect for Tom and look forward to reading it.

    But one thing in this blog post’s review seems urban-centric: reliance only on law enforcement for public safety. I live in Santa Fe, so law enforcement is not too far away. When I lived in Los Alamos, crime was extremely rare and cops close by. I had guns for shooting sports but all of them were locked in a safe. I was far more likely to trip over one than need it in an emergency.

    But I have friends who live out in the middle of nowhere such as in northern Santa Fe County and the local law enforcement, the county sheriff, can be tens of minutes away. Asking someone in an isolated rural area to depend on law enforcement exclusively for safety is asking a lot. Its one of those urban/rural divides that needs to be accommodated.

    But even for urban folks, that old saw comes to mind: when seconds count, police are minutes away. In Santa Fe, due to an officer shortage, the average response time for a high priority 911 call such as a shooting or home invasion is now 14 minutes, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (“Officer shortage slows response time in Santa Fe” 9/30/18). Ok, one’s home is being broken into. Start your watch…

    Although gun ownership, at least ownership in the home according to Heller, is an enumerated right, self defense is a human right. The best way to reduce gun ownership for self defense and get away from this Armed America mythology is to make it less desirable. Remember the Edsel or the Yugo? Not desirable. Part of this can be data-based (on an individual basis, not grand statistical models, using an evaluation of local risks and owner training) and part can be through social justice policies that dramatically reduce violent crime–something you rarely hear about from Gun Nut Nation. I think gun laws, in isolation, are probably the least effective.

    But I am excited to read what Tom says.

  2. Thank you, Khal. I look forward to your comments.

    I completely agree that the police only rarely intercept a crime in progress, especially in more remote areas. My book respects legitimate self-defense and gun ownership in the home. My Declaration of Rights primarily pertains to the right of citizens to use public spaces free of fear of gun violence and intimidation. The book also discusses laws like Stand Your Ground which have turned self-defense doctrine on its head. In many states, individuals have received immunity from prosecution after they have provoked a dispute, shot an unarmed individual, and/or when they could have safely retreated from a volatile situation. Many of these situations stretch the limits of self-defense unreasonably and serve to enable violence.

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