The purpose of this book is to provide an antidote to the misinformation which circulates in and around what the authors describe as the ‘intense and acrimonious’ national gun debate. The text is devoted to discussing 37 different ideas which create this misinformation, or what Tom Gabor and Fred Guttenberg refer to as gun ‘myths.’

              To their credit, G&G do an excellent job of describing each myth in clear and concise terms. They also have plumbed the research conducted and published which sheds some reality on each of these myths. If you find yourself in a discussion, debate or argument with a pro-gun advocate, the chances are pretty good that you will have to respond to one or more of the myths listed in this book and you can feel confident using the points made by G&G to provide a contrary case.

              That’s the good news about American Carnage – Shattering The Myths That Fuel Gun Violence. Now the other news, by which I don’t mean criticisms of what G&G have written. Rather, these are several concerns provoked by the book which perhaps require some additional thought. But the whole point of writing any book about a current debate is, after all, to widen the parameters of the debate. As Grandpa would say, ‘ze hais?’ (read: get it?)

              Concern #1. Early on, G&G argue that much of the misinformation about guns reflects the absence of research due to the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited the CDC from sponsoring evidence-based studies from 1997 until last year. But what is not mentioned is that the data on gun injuries produced by the CDC happens to be so insufficient and so lacking in both quantity and quality that our understanding of gun violence remains both minimal and misdirected, government research support or not.

              What I am referring to is the fact that the CDC only publishes estimates on the number of individuals who are killed with the use of guns, i.e., homicides and suicides. The CDC has yet to figure out how to derive and publish a valid estimate on the number of non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year, and my best guess is that this number, if estimated correctly, would increase the total annual gun carnage by two-thirds!

              How can you determine the efficacy of any law or strategy to reduce gun violence if you can’t figure out the number of gun violence events before and then after the law or strategy is put into effect? And let me make it clear that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun injuries is that in the latter instance, the shooter didn’t shoot straight.

Moreover, there are studies which strongly hint at the possibility that many of the victims of non-lethal gun injuries recover initially but then end up dying earlier than they otherwise would pass away. In other words, the actual fatal gun violence toll may be substantially higher than the number of deaths which occur in any given year.

My second concern, and again this is in no way of criticism of this fine, little book, is that G&G make no distinction between legal, as opposed to non-legal owners and users of guns. These lacunae aren’t their fault, because the absence of such a distinction is rife throughout the scholarly literature on guns. The United States isn’t the only country to sustain a regulatory system for private gun ownership, but it is the only country whose regulatory system is based on the behavior of gun owners, as opposed to a regulatory system which focuses primarily on the lethality and dangerousness of specific types of guns.

There’s a reason you can’t buy a semi-automatic pistol in Canada, which happens to be the same reason that you can’t buy an assault rifle in Britain or France. The only small arm whose ownership is restricted in the United States is a machine gun, but you can even own a full-auto gun if you’re willing to undergo two background checks, wait a couple of months to get approved and then ante up a $250 tax.

Not only do we try to respond to gun violence by looking primarily at the shooters and not at the guns they use to injure or kill themselves or someone else, in fact we have absolutely no idea how many gun violence events are committed by individuals who don’t meet the criteria we have developed to determine who can qualify to own a gun. G&G mention (p. 83) a California study of 18 million adults which showed that access to guns in the home resulted in a risk of fatal injury, but this study didn’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns.

We have absolutely no idea how many of those 400 million guns in the civilian arsenal are in the possession of people who cannot qualify for legal gun ownership. Hence, we have no way of actually determining the efficacy of the various gun regulations (ERPO, UBC, CAP, etc.) that G&G and the entire gun-control community believe, if enacted, will reduce the gun carnage which currently occurs in the United States.

Again, I am not raising these concerns as a criticism of G&G’s work. If anything, hopefully this book will give them a presence in the gun debate which will enable them to raise these issues in a meaningful ad influential way.

American Carnage deserves to be read.