Shots in the Dark: The Policy, Politics, and Symbolism of Gun Control

William J. Vizzard, Author
William J. Vizzard, Author Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8476-9560-7
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-8476-9559-1
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Gun control has become an increasingly polarized issue in the United States during the past few decadesDand that's unlikely to change in the near future, according to this academic review of the subject by a former agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. After an examination of the scholarly research on the subject, Vizzard, now an associate professor of criminal justice at California State University-Sacramento, traces the evolution of the issue in the 20th century, including New York State's 1911 Sullivan Law, which required a police permit to possess a handgun, the 1938 Federal Firearms Act and the 1968 Gun Control ActDall of which were watered down by the NRA. (One thing that's missing in this study is an exploration of why the gun ownership movement is so much stronger in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world.) The author's proposals for reaching what he believes is a much-needed compromise on the issue are limited. They include increasing fees and penalties on dealers, tightening licensing restrictions on prospective purchasers and strengthening laws against repeat gun offenders. As he puts it, ""There's little reason to assume that any outcome from research would alter the public's awareness of or characterization of the issue adequately so as to alter the political situation."" In the wake of such highly publicized incidents as last year's shooting at Columbine High School and given the presidential debate on gun control, Vizzard may get some media attention for his findings, but the writing is far too scholarly for general readers. (The books to read this season on the subject are Michael Bellesiles's Arming America; see Forecasts, July 24; and, due in November, Oxford University Press's Gun Violence: The Real Costs by Philip J Cook and Jens Ludwig.) (Oct.)
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