Arms

Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun
A. J. Somerset

Books about North American gun culture will always be timely since there’s rarely a moment when a mass shooting isn’t making the news in the U.S., followed by the usual handwringing (and not much else) over the need to enact stricter gun control laws. A. J. Somerset’s excellent — and, yes, timely — work of cultural history and social psychology goes behind the headlines, however, in an attempt to locate the “wellspring of crazy” that has created today’s neo-Wild West environment, with its “mainstreaming of increasingly loopy ideas.” From a history of the U.S. Constitution’s second amendment and various gun lobby groups in both Canada and the United States, through a taxonomy (or “bestiary”) of today’s gun nuts, Somerset, who is a gun owner and hunter himself living in London, Ontario, provides a witty and informed survey of the terrain, albeit one that doesn’t hold out a lot of hope for change. Laws and the justice system are only snapshot reflections of what are deeper social and cultural values, values that have been a long time forming and which can only evolve at a relatively slow pace. We’ll likely be drawing from the wellspring of crazy for a while yet.