cover image Gun Guys: A Road Trip

Gun Guys: A Road Trip

Dan Baum. Knopf, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-59541-6

To explore America’s gun culture, Baum, a former staff writer for the New Yorker and author of Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans, traverses the country talking to gun owners, shooting instructors, gun advocates, gun control supporters, and even a former gang member who used a gun to kill someone. As a “stoop-shouldered, bald-headed, middle-aged” Jewish Democrat, Baum isn’t your typical gun owner, but he admits to having an “obsession” with guns and has one on his person for much of his road trip. Crisscrossing America he finds a lot of inconsistencies, like gun owners who think the government is coming for their guns despite the fact that “guns laws were getting looser everywhere” or gun control groups pushing for new legislation without understanding how guns work or the historical ineffectiveness of gun control. Though he tries to find diversity among the gun owners he interviews, many just spout antiliberal dogma or “play the role of victim,” so these encounters become repetitive. It’s when the tone of the book shifts from travelogue to narrative, with stories like those of Tim White, who “used a gun in his criminal undertakings”; Rick Ector, an industrial engineer who turned gun carrier after a mugging; and Brandon Franklin, a young New Orleans man who was shot while trying to defend the mother of his children, that Baum’s skill as a writer and journalist is revealed. Overall, this is a very balanced accounting of both sides of America’s gun issue, and while Baum doesn’t have all the answers, his solution that both sides come together to promote gun safety is both admirable and prudent. Baum can be lauded for trying to find an accommodating solution to the problem of guns, but no doubt gun lovers and gun haters both will vehemently disagree with him. (Mar.)