Since Friday, I’ve been reading all I can about guns. Like most of you, this is how I make sense of that which defies explanation. With that in mind, I’d like for this post to serve as a clearinghouse on articles about the history, culture, and politics of guns in the United States. Please share any and all that you have found useful, enlightening, smart, or infuriating. I am particularly interested in four different types (none of which are exclusive from the others).
1) Essays that explain the historical evolution of how the Second Amendment has been interpreted. This short New Yorker piece by Jeffrey Toobin is a good example.
2) Articles about the history and politics of the NRA–essays that elaborate on a short comment that Nils Gilman made on my Facebook page yesterday: “The fundamental thing to understand about the NRA is that it’s not a rights lobby, it’s an industry lobby for gun manufacturers. They won the legal/constitutional debate ages ago, but want to create conditions that make people buy more guns. From that perspective, events like the Sandy Hook massacre are a feature rather than a bug in the strategy.”
3) Articles on the culture of guns in America. I have two such samples in mind here, the first by Aaron Bady at The New Inquiry, on the fetish of guns and the fetish of gun control, the second from a 2001 issue of The Baffler.
4) Essays on the broader philosophical implications of how we think about guns in the United States. I don’t have any example articles in mind, but my desire to read more of this type of analysis was inspired by something Varad Mehta wrote on Facebook yesterday, responding to a National Review article that argued, predictably, more guns was the solution to gun massacres: “I could have sworn that the whole point of a social contract was to turn society/the political community in its entirety into a ‘gun-free zone.’ By that I don’t mean that under the social contract you surrender your right to bear arms and defend yourself (although Hobbes would disagree). Rather, you surrender the necessity and obligation of having to bear arms to defend yourself against all your fellow men every moment of the day. The purpose of the social contract is to ensure that you don’t have to bear arms if you don’t want to because you don’t have to. So when someone says that the solution to all these mass shootings is to allow guns everywhere, they are implying, if not avowing explicity, that the social contract has broken down and that we have returned to the state of nature. The fact that some in this debate seem perfectly willing to accept such a state of affairs is to my mind the grossest, most offensive sign of their moral bankruptcy.”
(Note: If it seems all of the articles I link to swing in one direction, well, guilty as charged. That does not mean the articles you link to in the comments section need to do the same.)