One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy (Hardcover)
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This “brilliant and gut-wrenching” (The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice) takedown of American gun culture argues that the nation’s founders did not intend the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual right to bear arms—and that this distortion of the record is an urgent threat to democracy.
“At once eye-opening and enraging, One Nation Under Guns is that rare book that can help change the way we live in this country.”—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., bestselling author of Begin Again
More than a hundred lives are lost to firearms every day in America. The cost is more than the numbers—it is the fear, the anxiety, the dread of public spaces that an armed society has created under the tortured rubric of freedom. But the norms of today are not the norms of American history or the values of its founders. They are the product of a gun culture that has imposed its vision on a sleeping nation.
Historian Dominic Erdozain argues that we have wrongly ceded the big-picture argument on guns: As we parse legislation on background checks and automatic-weapons bans, we fail to ask what place guns should have in a functioning democracy. Taking readers on a brilliant historical journey, Erdozain shows how the founders feared the tyranny of individuals as much as the tyranny of kings—the idea that any person had a right to walk around armed was anathema to their notion of freedom and the peaceful republic they hoped to build. They wrote these ideas into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, ideas that were subsequently affirmed by two centuries of jurisprudence.
And yet the twin scourges of racism and nationalism would combine to create a darker American vision—a rogue and reckless freedom based on birth and blood. It was this freedom, not the liberty promised by the Constitution, that generated our modern gun culture, with its mystic conceptions of good guys and bad guys, innocence and guilt. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court reinvented the Second Amendment in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, an opinion that Erdozain convincingly eviscerates, many Americans had already acceded to the fiction: the unfreedom of an armed society. To save our democracy, he argues, we must fight for the founders’ true idea of what it means to be free.
About the Author
Dominic Erdozain is a writer and historian with a passion for bringing the past into dialogue with the present. Erdozain has written widely on the intellectual origins of democracy and has published opinion pieces for CNN, placing America’s gun problem in a broader philosophical context. A graduate of Oxford and Cambridge, he is currently a visiting professor at Emory University.
“Brilliant and gut-wrenching. . . . As I read Erdozain’s book, I couldn’t stop sharing passages suggesting just how much we seem to have gotten wrong about the Second Amendment, and the grave results of that wrongness: a society in which we all—gun owners and non-gun owners alike—live beholden to the gun owners’ existential threat.”—Rachel Louise Snyder, New York Times Book Review
“In this extraordinary book, Dominic Erdozain pulls back the curtain on the American obsession with guns. There we find the violence of slavery, the ugliness of nativism and nationalism, and the history of lies and misinterpretation about the second amendment. We see how the myth of ‘the law-abiding citizen with a gun’—the good guy—contributes to America’s killing fields. At once eye-opening and enraging, One Nation Under Guns is that rare book that can help change the way we live in this country.”—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., New York Times bestselling author of Begin Again and Democracy in Black
“A scorching evisceration of how a disingenuous few and their allies warped the Constitution, weakened democracy, and waged war on reality to the point where the leading cause of death for children in America is now a bullet from a gun. . . . With withering prose and an arsenal of receipts, Dominic Erdozain exposes that the only thing more tortured than their argument is their justification for each new massacre in ‘the land of the free’—and even offers some welcome hope that we can stem the tide of eulogies before it’s too late.”—Cody Keenan, former chief speechwriter for President Barack Obama and bestselling author of Grace
“In this cogent, colorful, and persuasive dissection of our peculiar gun culture, Dominic Erdozain explains the inexplicable: all the ‘lives lost to a myth’—the myth of a meaning of the Second Amendment manufactured out of whole cloth by Antonin Scalia. This book goes wide and deep on one of the most critical issues of our times.”—Jonathan Alter, bestselling author of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life
“Formidable and timely . . . Among the many strengths of this book is the author’s incisive commentary on the catastrophic failure of legislative safeguards. . . . A profound demolition of misguided gun-rights arguments and a compelling call to action.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review