The goal of the new Thom Hartmann Hidden History series, which launches in June with The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, is "to take large topics and drill into their histories to better understand how we got to where we are—so we'll be better equipped to solve the problems we face," Hartmann says.
"We're here"—at a crisis point in America's relationship to guns—"because so many people are dying," says Hartmann, a syndicated radio and TV personality, activist, and author. "In 2017, it was around 34,000 gun deaths," he continues. "Last year, it was around 40,000."
The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment is a concise, step-by-step recontextualization of American history in terms of its troubled relationship to guns, beginning before the country's founding and concluding with the 2018 court decision that controversially banned 3D-printed guns. "America was birthed in slavery and genocide. And both needed guns," Hartmann writes.
In short, readable chapters, the book presents a history of how America became "a nation awash in firearms" and then delves into the cultural myths—which have taken root, Hartmann says, by means of propaganda, misinformation, and powerful lobbying on the part of the NRA, weapons manufacturers, and other interests—that serve to keep it that way, despite obvious "social and human costs."
All of this means that, according to Hartmann, America has a unique relationship to guns. But, he says, "that doesn't mean we need unique solutions. Australia had a similar ‘cowboy culture' based on the genocide of aboriginal people, and a similar gun problem, and they solved it after a particularly bad massacre in 1996 by tightening up the rules on who can own a gun and instituting a nationwide gun buyback program."
Hartmann proposes other solutions, such as instating gun registration, licensing, and liability insurance requirements like the ones we use for car ownership. And he looks to how other countries have managed guns: "We need to end the industry's war against ‘safe guns'—guns that can only be fired by their owner by virtue of biometrics or the owner wearing a watch or a chip that the gun 'reads.' This technology is widely available in Europe; it needs to come to the US," he says.
Hartmann sees room for compromise between those on either side of the gun debate. "As recently as the 1970s, the NRA and both political parties supported reasonable gun control measures and were willing to entertain even more comprehensive measures," he says. In this polarized moment, that kind of compromise can seem out of reach.
That's why Hartmann—whose syndicated radio show, The Thom Hartmann Program, has aired since 2003—believes media personalities like himself "need to be telling the stories of people whose lives have been shattered because of guns, and keep pointing out that there is a provable and largely linear relationship between the number of guns in circulation and the number of gun deaths and injuries."
The second book in the series takes on another foundational notion of American history: the power of the Supreme Court to strike down laws. The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, coming in October, argues that the Court has overstepped its constitutional powers, tracing the arc of the Supreme Court's development from its origins as a final court of appeals. As he does with guns, Hartmann proposes a different vision for the Supreme Court, one that could be better equipped to deal with the conflicts of today's America. Hartmann's editor, Neal Maillet, adds that the author is envisioning many more books and topics in the Hidden History series to "completely challenge beliefs with alternative histories on topics as varied as voter suppression and monopoly control."
The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment
The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America
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