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Living with Guns: A Liberal's Case for the Second Amendmentby Craig Whitney
Synopses & Reviews
Newtown. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson. Aurora. Gun violence on a massive scale has become a plague in our society, yet politicians seem more afraid of having a serious conversation about guns than they are of the next horrific shooting. Any attempt to change the status quo, whether to strengthen gun regulations or weaken them, is sure to degenerate into a hysteria that changes nothing. Our attitudes toward guns are utterly polarized, leaving basic questions unasked: How can we reconcile the individual right to own and use firearms with the right to be safe from gun violence? Is keeping guns out of the hands of as many law-abiding Americans as possible really the best way to keep them out of the hands of criminals? And do 30,000 of us really have to die by gunfire every year as the price of a freedom protected by the Constitution?
In Living with Guns, Craig R. Whitney, former foreign correspondent and editor at the New York Times, seeks out answers. He re-examines why the right to bear arms was enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and how it came to be misunderstood. He looks to colonial times, surveying the degree to which guns were a part of everyday life. Finally, blending history and reportage, Whitney explores how twentieth-century turmoil and culture war led to todays climate of activism, partisanship, and stalemate, in a nation that contains an estimated 300 million gunsand probably at least 60 million gun owners.
In the end, Whitney proposes a new way forward through our gun rights stalemate, showing how we can live with gunsand why, with so many of them around, we have no other choice.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A longtime New York Times editor reexamines America’s long relationship with guns, finding less than meets the eye in arguments for greater gun regulation
America’s war over gun control has raged since the 1960s. In 2008, the Supreme Court startled the left by concluding that with the Second Amendment the founders elevated “above all other interests” the right to bear arms “in defense of hearth and home.” Liberals feared the NRA would succeed in rolling back regulations nationwide. Discussion about guns in America has been stalemated, shortcircuited, and dominated by rigidly and mutually intolerant ideologies. Yet we may be closer to a solution than either side may imagine.
In Living With Guns, veteran New York Times editor Craig Whitney carefully reexamines America’s relationship with guns, showing how guns are an important part of American culture. The earliest colonists needed them to survive. We have nearly 300 million of them today. Trying to restrict gun ownership doesn’t effectively deter crime—we need to get serious about what actually works. Whitney shows that, if we focus on controlling violence rather than guns themselves, the Second Amendment may not be so lethal as the left would like to think.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Are these 27 words of the Second Amendment lethal? Are the deaths of 30,000 Americans by gunfire every year the price of our freedoms protected by the Constitution? Has the powerful gun lobby guaranteed that Americans will own more guns than people in any other country on earth? And are gun controls an effective way to control gun violence anyway?
Craig Whitney carried a handgun as a Navy officer in Saigon during the Vietnam War. As a foreign correspondent and later an editor at the New York Times, when baffled foreign friends asked why there were so many guns and so many violent shootings in America, he wondered for himself what the truth was. In Living with Guns, he seeks out answers.
Whitney returns to the early colonial history that set the framers on course for reserving to citizens the right to bear arms, tracks the political battles that led to the contemporary impasse on the subject, and talks to gun owners themselves. The result is an effort to forge a third way into the argument: a liberal gun-owner's fresh perspective on which gun control battles are worth fighting, and where we can still seek out common ground.
About the Author
Craig Whitney has worked as reporter and foreign correspondent for the New York Times in New York, Saigon, Bonn, Moscow, Paris, and London. He served as European diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor, Washington editor, and assistant managing editor of the Times, before retiring in 2009. He is the author of All the Stops.
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