Bullet Theory

J. Neil Schulman's "Talk at Temple Beth Shir Shalom: Friday, April 30, 1993" is a tough-Jew manifesto. Reminding the congregation that "Jews stopped being victimized when they took up arms and started fighting back," Schulman chillingly compares the 1938 Nazi Weapons law to the 1968 Gun Control Act. "Jews in Germany submitted to Nazi gun control laws and allowed themselves to be disarmed," he observes. "Guns Are the Tools by Which We Forge Our Liberty" is a gem reprinted from Vermont Outdoors Magazine. Lawyer-mother-vegetarian Cindy Hill sees guns as vital to democracy. She quotes Noah Webster: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed."

Equally moving but vehemently anti-gun is "A Loaded Question: What Is It About America and Guns?" by Leonard Kriegel. Unfortunately this is the only real memoir in the collection. Kriegel's story begins when he's a boy in a wheelchair, with polio and a rifle in his hand. Nothing could compare to the pride and empowerment he felt firing his first shot. Later on in life he's a father, and in an encounter with border police he experiences repulsion and loathing at the killing capacities of a gun.

A good collection should be like a box of assorted chocolates—some selections will be better than others, and that's clearly the case here. Reprints of policy statements, magazine and newspaper articles, and essays from scholarly journals tell us a lot about guns in America, but where are the voices of North America's Los Madres—moms whose children have died on city streets? Or the Zen of shooting? Or Dad and me oiling our guns over a bottle of vodka, Harry James wailing in the background? With so few strong first-person narratives, we can't really learn much about what guns mean to Americans. Debates over guns in America seem doomed to the same purgatory as abortion and animal rights. How do we live together? The guns in America are shot from the heart—pumped from human emotions. Won't you be my neighbor?

image: Jonathan Weiner


Guns in America: A Reader
Edited by Jan E. Dizard, Robert Merrill Muth, and Stephen P. Andrews Jr.
NYU Press, 517 pp., $24.95 paper
Buy this book

Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America
By Tom Diaz
New Press, 258 pp., $25
Buy this book

email: dgaines310@aol.com

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