Gun Violence in America: The Struggle for Control

Alexander DeConde
Northeastern University Press, 2001
394 p.


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Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Origins and Precedents
Chapter 2: The Colonial Record
Chapter 3: To the Second Amendment
Chapter 4: Militias, Duels, and Gun Keeping
Chapter 5: A Gun Culture Emerges
Chapter 6: Reconstruction, Cheap Guns, and the Wild West
Chapter 7: The National Rifle Association
Chapter 8: Urban Control Movements
Chapter 9: Gun-Roaring Twenties
Chapter 10: Direct Federal Controls
Chapter 11: Guns Flourish, Opposition Rises
Chapter 12: Control Act of 1968
Chapter 13: Control Groups on the Rise
Chapter 14: Gun Lobby Glory Years
Chapter 15: A Wholly Owned NRA Subsidiary?
Chapter 16: The Struggle Nationalized
Chapter 17: The Brady Act
Chapter 18: School Shootings and Gun Shows
Chapter 19: Clinton v. the NRA
Chapter 20: Summing Up
Notes / Bibliography / Index

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Few social issues have produced more exaggerated claims and contention among Americans than the struggle to control gun violence. Fuelling the emotional fire in debates between firearm groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun control advocates is the dispute over the importance of guns in American culture. Is the fondness for firearms, truly part of a venerable American tradition, one to be observed with very few limits? In this inquiry, Alexander DeConde delves into the myths and politics regarding gun keeping, as well as the controversies over gun use, crime and policing from the early days of the republic to the 21st century. explains why the United States, with all its resources, fails repeatedly to confine gun violence to the same low levels achieved by other advanced democracies. A new epilogue by the author addresses the state of the gun control debate in today’s political climate.


>> Booklist: “The gun-control debate continues…DeConde, an emeritus professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, ranks with Michael Bellesiles (Arming America, 2000) and Garry Wills (A Necessary Evil, 1999) as a challenger of gun ownership myths. DeConde explores the opposition to private gun ownership, which developed early and became increasingly organized as the nation grew more urban and industrialized. He traces these movements; considers the roles of local, state, and federal government; and addresses attitudes toward the militia and popular resistance to conscription. ‘From the time firearms became reasonably reliable personal weapons,’ DeConde declares, ‘local authorities attempted with various restraints to keep them out of the hands of the wrong people.’ The U.S. experience is ‘exceptional,’ he suggests, only in that ‘most other peoples do not have…an enigmatic gun “right” imbedded in a Constitution and vaunted as a civil liberty.'”

>> Choice: “This important study examines one of the most contentious social issues confronting the American public: the proliferation of gun-related violence…. The author clearly and persuasively challenges the shibboleth that the Second Amendment was designed to protect individual gun possession, noting that court cases, especially at the federal level, consistently have refuted such a notion. This work discusses the emergence of a gun culture in the U.S., the increased availability of guns after the Civil War, and the political potency of the National Rifle Association.”

>> The Law and Politics Book Review: “Offers the most sweeping, detailed, and complete account of the history of guns and gun control in America to be found in print…. Useful and readable for the generalist and specialist alike, DeConde’s book reminds us what and how a careful scholar can contribute to an important public debate.”

>> Political Science Quarterly: “A sweeping overview of the social, legal, and political clashes that guns have inspired from the colonial era to the present. The book covers everything from ‘wild west’ shootouts to the landmark firearms laws of the 1920s and 1930s to the present political debate over massacres in schools…. DeConde has produced a unique introduction, a must-read for any scholar interested in gun politics.”