A Road Trip
By Dan Baum
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307595416, 352pp.)
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Here is armed America—a land of machine-gun gatherings in the desert, lederhosened German shooting societies, feral-hog hunts in Texas, and Hollywood gun armories. Whether they’re collecting antique weapons, practicing concealed carry, or firing an AR-15 or a Glock at their local range, many Americans love guns—which horrifies and fascinates many other Americans, and much of the rest of the world. This lively, sometimes raucous book explores from the inside the American love affair with firearms.
Dan Baum is both a lifelong gun guy and a Jewish Democrat who grew up in suburban New Jersey feeling like a “child of a bitter divorce with allegiance to both parents.” In Gun Guys he grabs his licensed concealed handgun and hits the road to meet some of the 40 percent of Americans who own guns. We meet Rick Ector, a black Detroit autoworker who buys a Smith & Wesson after suffering an armed robbery—then quits his job to preach the gospel of armed self-defense, especially to the resistant black community; Jeremy and Marcey Parker, a young, successful Kentucky couple whose idea of a romantic getaway is the Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun Championship in Bowling Green; and Aaron Zelman, head of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Baum also travels to New Orleans, where he enters the world of a man disabled by a bullet, and to Chicago to interview a killer. Along the way, he takes us to gun shows, gun stores, and shooting ranges trying to figure out why so many of us love these things and why they inspire such passions.
In the tradition of Confederates in the Attic and Among the Thugs, Baum brings an entire world to life. Written equally for avid shooters and those who would never touch a firearm, Gun Guys is more than a travelogue. It gives a fresh assessment of the heated politics surrounding guns, one that will challenge and inform people on all sides of the issue. This may be the first book that goes beyond gun politics to illuminate the visceral appeal of guns—an original, perceptive, and surprisingly funny journey through American gun culture.
Dan Baum is the author of Nine Lives, Smoke and Mirrors, and Citizen Coors. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker and has written for Rolling Stone, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications.
“Dan Baum armed himself with an open mind and a .38 Detective Special to see what the armed lifestyle is about. Taking participatory journalism to a debate that rivals abortion as a hot-button topic, he emerged with observations that need to be read by both sides of the highly polarized issue.”
—Massad Ayoob, author and use-of-force instructor
“You don't have to agree with Dan Baum on everything; perhaps a gun-loving self-described liberal Democrat from Boulder is so unique nobody will. But he has written the most original book on the gun culture yet, fair, funny, and as informed as it is iconoclastic. I urge all my friends, both those in the NRA and those who think guns are evil, to read, learn, laugh, and recognize themselves. Gun Guys is an unlikely bridge for our too-polarized time.”
—Steve Bodio, author of Good Guns Again, and An Eternity of Eagles.
“Dan Baum’s curiosity about guns and his passion for them pull you deep into this book before you even know how you got there. He has put in the heft of a firearm and the smell of gunpowder and the heedless pleasure of shooting, and has produced a beautiful piece of writing.”
—Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia
"Engrossing . . . a thoughtful corrective to the mutual ideological hysteria surrounding the issue of guns in America."
“[A] well-written, thought-provoking and often humorous account of [Baum’s] road trip through America’s gun culture . . . Gun Guys is the sort of readable, information-rich book that could change minds and help bridge the huge national divide over guns. Let’s hope it finds the readership it deserves.”
—Alden Mudge, Book Page
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Choice in Social Sciences
“Baum’s skill as a writer and journalist is revealed . . . [A] balanced accounting of both sides of America’s gun issue, and while Baum doesn’t have all the answers, his solution that both sides come together to promote gun safety is both admirable and prudent.”
“Dan Baum may be exactly what America needs right now: a liberal journalist with a gun . . . [F]or those who prefer humorous, literate and honest discussion about [guns] to frothy ranting, Gun Guys will hit the spot.”
—Michael Merschel, Dallas News
“The gun issue is about to find a new ambassador in Dan Baum . . . [Baum is] the perfect tour guide for a well-timed trek through gun culture in modern America . . . an insightful exploration that brings some much-needed humanity to gun lovers and gun haters . . . a thoughtful, well-reasoned antidote to the polarized hysteria that currently passes for a national gun debate. By the end of the book, Baum arrives at something that feels truly fresh: a middle ground on guns.”
—Lily Raff McCaulou, San Francisco Chronicle
“Vivid . . . Baum can still shoot, as demonstrated by a riveting chapter on some arduous gunfight training he endures. But more important, Baum can write. Schlepping among the gun lovers with this guy is unfailingly diverting as well as illuminating.”
—Daniel Akst, Newsday
“[Gun Guys] is interesting and funny. But most of all it is enlightening.”
“[S]mart and informative—an education for anyone the slightest bit curious about why gun owners are so passionate about their guns. Dan Baum's stories are alive, engaging, and earnest.”
—Geri Spieler, New York Journal of Books
“[A]n evenhanded and witty exposé of hardcore firearms culture and gun control controversies . . . [B]aum hones and polishes his investigation like he would an antique Winchester.”
—Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe
“As a writer, Baum doesn’t have it in him to lay down a dull sentence. His sketches of the people he meets (not all of them white, and not all of them guys) are charming and funny . . . [W]ise, considered, delectably written, fun to read and wholly lacking in tendentiousness, and thus likely to deepen anyone’s thinking on the subject.”
—Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News
“[P]itch-perfect . . . a thoughtful, even-handed look at a subject that tends to raise the hackles of people on both sides of the gun-control debate . . . Baum should be applauded for his intellectual honesty.”
—Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[A] provocative, probing and frequently funny journey deep into the mentality of the approximately 40 percent of Americans who own guns . . . Strong words from a strong writer, straddling a great divide and maybe through this book helping to bridge it.”
—John Wilkens, U-T San Diego
“[T]horoughly entertaining and provocative.”
—Bill Eichenberger, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[A] wonderfully guileless and open-minded guide to American gun culture . . . Baum, a fearless reporter of sharp eye and witty phrase, has done a public service.”
—Carlo Wolff, The Christian Science Monitor
“[F]ascinating, intelligent . . . a necessary, insightful dose of down-the-middle reporting on a debate largely defined by extremes.”
—Chuck Leddy, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Who better to give us a fair, middle-of-the-road, see-both-sides portrait of the psyche of gun lovers? [Baum is] one of them. But at the same time, he’s not . . . That’s what makes this book so great. Baum, a master of self-deprecating humor, pokes fun at himself as the guy with glasses and pleated pants who struggles to blend in with the gun crowd, even with his NRA baseball cap on. He’s also none-too-shy about deprecating others, especially knee-jerk gun-control activists and cliché-spouting “gun guys,” both sides settling for easy answers and inaccurate stereotypes of their opponents . . . Baum gives the readers fresh perspectives, taking the gun debate well beyond the usual loud, angry and simplistic arguments.”
—Gene Warner, The Buffalo News
“Baum’s perspective as a liberal who loves guns allows him to write with refreshing clarity about an issue that is usually addressed only from one side or the other of a deep cultural divide . . . briskly paced, personal, funny, and engrossing . . . readers interested in a fresh perspective on a divisive issues will be pleased.”
—Rachel Bridgewater, Library Journal