Recently I finished reading Guncrazy America by Frank Egerton, professor of history, Emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside in Kenosha County, WI. He and I have had dozens of back and forth opinion pieces regarding gun control published in our local paper and in personal correspondence for at least 20 years.
He sent me the 5th chapter years ago to read because I am included in it. I told him then that I would like to read the entire book when he finished. He finished a while back and sent me an email saying if I still wanted to read it that I could get a digital copy for $3.99 from Amazon. I told him I would not spend $4 just to see my name in print and if he wanted me to read it, he would have to supply a free copy. He did.
The book is 358 pages long but here is the interesting thing: there are only 264 pages of prose with the remaining 94 pages being index, bibliography, endnotes, and further reading suggestions. It appears at first glance to be a scholarly work. It is not. It is filled with misspellings, punctuation errors, and misidentifications. Some of the errors can be attributed to the apparent self publishing of this book. But I fault the author, a PhD in history, for not having hired a proof reader to check his manuscript. Without these corrections this seemingly scholarly work becomes nothing but a personal rant and bias against individual gun ownership. If his thought in writing this book was to convert gun lovers into gun haters, he has failed miserably.
Guncrazy starts out as a history of the gun industry in America and the use of guns for war, hunting, and for personal defense. The first dates mentioned were in the 1500’s with the use of guns by the Spanish, English and French against the American Natives and against each other. It proceeds to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries with discussions about the war of Independence, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War. In later chapters the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and current conflicts are discussed. But in each discussion the underlying theme is the connection between the gun industry and those governments waging war and their financial support for improvements in gun development and production.
Chapter 5 is particularly interesting when it discusses the NRA. Egerton follows the NRA from its beginnings in the late 1800’s as a shooting club to its current status as the primary defender of the individual right to keep and bear arms. After the Civil War he says the NRA was established in New York to promote rifle practice. It was perceived that many if not most of the Northern Soldiers in the Civil War were from urban areas and not familiar with guns and hence very poor marksmen. The Rebels on the other hand were mostly country men and much better shots than the Union Soldiers. During the late 1800’s the NRA established shooting ranges with the support and financing of New York State and later by the Federal Government.
Egerton says the NRA fell upon hard times for a while when its public support was ended. However with the start of the Spanish American War, the renewed interest in military preparedness again prompted public support. Rifle clubs were established, civilian marksmanship was encouraged, and public funding was restored.
Egerton bemoans this connection between the NRA and the public support they received. He also dislikes the fact that many US Surplus guns ended up in civilian hands. At one point he says, “During the 1960s, it became evident that both left-wing and right-wing extremist individuals and groups were joining or forming NRA clubs in order to receive free government guns and ammunition.” Egerton provided a footnote for this statement, “Bakal, The Right To Bear Arms, 1968, 140-141”. I did not read this book but I have read a couple reviews. The author was a professional glamour photographer for McCall’s Magazine in the late 50’s, not the type of credible reference that should be cited in a scholarly work.
Another questionable reference he uses is the web site, http://www.stopthenra.com. I went to this web site and found a total of one page of info. And the page starts with the sentence, “The NRA is a fucked up organization.” Later the web page author says, “I love guns just as much as the next person (have you ever shot a pumpkin with a gun?” It seems rather strange to use a self identified gun lover as a reference in a gun haters book.
Using these types of references calls into question the reliability and credibility of every reference Egerton has used. No one could possibly research all of the included footnotes to see whether any of them are credible. But having found two that are not makes all of them questionable.
Later on in chapter 5 Egerton says that he obviously does not speak for the NRA but lists 12 of their basic beliefs as he understands them. Among his list of NRA beliefs at number 12 is, “Law-abiding NRA members have a right to shoot other Americans if they conclude that whoever is being shot is a serious threat to themselves, others, and possibly to property, even if the perceived threat comes from a government official.” I have been a life member of the NRA for 50 years. Never in all those years and in all the publications by the NRA I have read and never in any minutes of any annual meetings have I ever seen a statement such as this. There is not one NRA member I know that believes this. It is an absolutely false and inappropriate claim and is shameful from a man who has dedicated himself to higher education.
I could write more but I won’t. I have said enough about an issue that was settled over 200 years ago, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
This book is not worth reading. And if this book is representative of the quality of the anti gun literature available then the 2nd Amendment is not in jeopardy.