UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 26: People visit memorials for victims of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, in City of Uvalde Town Square on May 26, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School after a man entered the school through an unlocked door and barricaded himself in a classroom where the victims were located. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) Credit: Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images


We know that many of our readers own firearms and that our readers hold different points of view on gun control issues. These books offer a starting point for intelligent discussion about the role of guns in American society in general.

Given the furor over the Uvalde school shooting, as well as Clayton County Public Schoolsattention to a rash of firearms and other weapons confiscated from students in recent weeks, we wanted to offer you a reading list about guns and gun policy.

Too often, discussions about firearms are overheated rhetorical affairs. Instead of relying on social media fights and paid-pundit screeching, a more thoughtful person might turn to the printed word for deeper understanding. Most gun magazines and many books about firearms are published by companies so intertwined with the gun lobby that any difference of opinion, no matter how mild, can result in a furious backlash from advertisers. Dick Metcalf was fired after writing an opinion piece for Guns and Ammo in 2013, in which he dared to state that the Second Amendment was regulated, along with all other Constitutional rights. His editor, Jim Bequette, soon issued a mea culpa to the industry, along with his own resignation, adding he had only wanted to open a dialogue.

These books take a less-overheated approach and represent a variety of points of view and experiences. The Clayton Crescent does not take a position on any political campaign to increase or lessen restrictions on firearms. We know that many of our readers own firearms and that our readers hold different points of view on gun control issues. These books offer a starting point for intelligent discussion about the role of guns in American society in general.

Some titles are available as audiobooks. You can order any book for free through the Clayton County Library System or, if you are affiliated with a college or university, your institution’s library. If the title is not on hand, ask your librarian to place an interlibrary loan for you.

The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance E. Hill

This book outlines the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a loosely-organized militia of deacons at Black churches in the rural South. Founded in Jonesboro, Louisiana in 1964, the Deacons quickly spread to Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. The fight was particularly vicious in Bogalusa, Louisiana, a country town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans and near the Mississippi border that was notorious for its Ku Klux Klan activity. (The Bogalusa Deacons, founded by Bogalusa Voters League head Bob Hicks, formed the day Malcolm X was assassinated.) Many of the Deacons were combat veterans and were at odds philosophically with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s gospel of nonviolent resistance, but provided local backup for traveling representatives of CORE and NAACP. By the late 60s, the burgeoning Black Power movement and federal intervention against the Klan (which included local police in Bogalusa) somewhat lessened the need for the Deacons’ patrols. Today, Hicks’ house is recognized as a historic site on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You: How Most Self-Defense Training Will Put You Into Prison or the Ground, Marc MacYoung and Jenna Meek

Written by an expert witness and a self-defense instructor, this book puts gun owners (and black belts) on notice. Despite quick summaries of high-profile cases to the contrary, you can’t just claim self-defense like a kid touching base during a game of tag and yelling “Safe!” This book explains the ins and outs of what happens after someone fires a gun, claims self-defense, and enters the legal system. Meek is “a self-defense instructor holding credentials from the Massad Ayoob Group and the NRA,” while MacYoung has presented at self-defense and law enforcement conferences in addition to serving as an expert witness.

Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence, Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelley

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords survived a 2011 mass shooting outside a Tuscon, AZ grocery store where she was meeting with constituents. Six other people were killed and 12 wounded in the attack. The following year, Giffords resigned from Congress to focus on recovering her speech and mobility. She went on to found Americans for Responsible Solutions, now known as Giffords, to research gun violence and lobby for “common sense” gun reforms. The book details Giffords’ shooting and recovery, and delves into efforts to preserve gun owners’ Second Amendment rights while reforming firearms policy and law. Kelley writes, “…as much as we love guns, we also believe in the rule of law. Because we care about public safety, we don’t allow people to drive cars on the sidewalk, and we don’t permit teenagers to buy alcohol, and we take measures to make sure our kids aren’t drinking arsenic in the school water fountain. Why, then, can’t we agree on a few simple rules about gun ownership that honor the Second Amendment while protecting Americans from random gun violence?” Note: Both Giffords and Kelley are gun owners.

Gun Guys: A Road Trip, Dan Baum

Baum, a journalist’s journalist who died in 2020, chronicles his foray into gun culture, profiling gun enthusiasts from divergent backgrounds. Along the way, he notices the creeping influence of the AR-15-style rifle: “With their plastic stocks and high-tech man-killer look, they lacked the elegance of traditional firearms. The most common reason that people bought guns was for protection against crime, but shotguns and handguns were best for close-order shooting. The second most common reason was target shooting, like here at Cherry Creek. Hunting came third, but rarely with the AR-15. Most states didn’t allow the taking of deer with the tiny .223 bullet fired by the basic AR. The AR was excellent at what it was designed for: killing people at medium range on the battlefield, which was not something the average retail gun buyer needed to do. Yet more and more rack space in gun stores seemed to be given over to AR-15s, and at this range on this day, they had taken over completely.”

Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America, Ryan Busse

Busse used to work for Kimber, a higher-end gun company. An avid outdoorsman and hunter, he actively pressured others in the industry to boycott Smith and Wesson after the gunmaker agreed to a settlement with the Clinton White House following the Columbine massacre. As part of the settlement, Smith and Wesson had agreed to child-safety locks and said it wouldn’t sell to dealers who played fast and loose with background checks. Busse’s organized backlash against Smith and Wesson made him the darling of the NRA. As school shootings and the associated death tolls climbed, Busse’s wife began to ask him what he would do about it. That prompted him to take a hard look at the industry from the inside, and he didn’t like what he saw. Busse also notes how the AR-15-style rifle went from telum non grata among “real” outdoorsmen to the current must-have consumer weapon of choice. Busse now works for Giffords.

If you read these books, tell us what you think about them. If you just like to comment on things without reading them first, please consider posting to Facebook or other social media platforms instead.

Robin Kemp

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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