Exceptionalism and American Gun Culture (REVIEW)
America’s debate on guns often triggers heated arguments from both sides of the political aisle. Thus, a dispassionately neutral and forensic look at the subject is refreshing, intriguing and potentially life-saving.
In Guns, Traumas, and Exceptionalism: America in the Twenty First Century, Howard Epstein shares some practical ideas on how to reduce the ever-rising death toll from gunfire (currently, more than 30 per day).
Raised in Britain’s almost entirely gun-free culture, the author first documents America’s historical association with the gun: “The firearm must have been in the delivery room of the emerging nation,” he says. Indeed, the American pioneers forcefully settled the land — and the War of Independence and the Civil War were similarly fought by civilians, firearms in hand.
Epstein then documents America’s most traumatic events, from Pearl Harbor to the untimely assassinations of noblemen such as John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and onwards to our modern-day mass shootings and terrorist attacks.
Epstein associates all this violence with the way that too many of our children instinctively and destructively turn to guns as an outlet for their frustrations.
Epstein makes the connection between the 20 national traumas he chronicles (“far more than any culturally-similar nation”), and the uncomfortable fact that there are many more gun deaths in America than in any culturally similar country; graphs and calculations most definitely make his point. The “new normal” cannot remain the norm, the author poignantly states.
The book records how ineffectively the Brady Gun Control laws have fared, by showing how easy it is for anyone to acquire a gun via a proxy buyer, and how our political leadership has consistently failed us, offering only the same “tired old remedies.”
Epstein doesn’t think the situation is hopeless, however, and offers some highly practical ideas. They include “programs designed to reduce rampage killings” with “benign intervention” for troubled youths, and a generation-long media campaign on the dangers and facts of gun violence.
The book ends with a wonderfully optimistic chapter on American exceptionalism — and how it could help solve this problem that it may have also created. “American exceptionalism could work its magic again and turn the gun crime tide firmly against violence and towards a more peaceful society.”
Epstein has truly armed us to combat the needless killings in this country. Let’s demand a national debate over these ideas, and let’s overturn our “new normal” attitude towards the daily loss of life in America.
More information about the book can be found here.