Living with Guns: A Liberal's Case for the Second Amendment

Craig R. Whitney. PublicAffairs, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61039-169-6

With America's epidemic of gun violence showing no sign of ebbing, it likely that Whitney's book-length op-ed on gun control will remain relevant for years. A career New York Times reporter and editor, now retired, Whitney has previously written on such diverse subjects as pipe organs (in 2004's All The Stops) and claims no special expertise in constitutional law or firearms. Instead, he writes as a concerned citizen. His primer on gun law history sometimes gets bogged down in minutiae, but also produces fascinating tidbits like the decidedly nonprogressive bent of some early gun control legislation, namely toward African Americans. Less scholarly but still valuable are his memories of when firearms did not divide right and left, and when the NRA was mostly associated with safety training. The book's subtitle does its argument a disservice by implying that Whitney's concern is with defending the Second Amendment, when instead he is against liberals' common resort to the "well-regulated militia" language to claim a constitutional lack of protection for individual gun use. Opposed to arbitrary restrictions, reckless loopholes, NRA fear-mongering, and liberal intolerance of gun culture's law-abiding side, Whitney's presentation of firearm ownership as a protected area of U.S. common, if not Constitutional, law, strikes a conciliatory note that sadly stands little chance of being heeded. Agent: The Strothman Agency. (Nov.)