The Gun Debate Book Summary - The Gun Debate Book explained in key points
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The Gun Debate summary

Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss

What Everyone Needs to Know®

3.8 (180 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Gun Debate by Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss is a comprehensive analysis of the gun control debate in the US. It explores the origins of the debate, different perspectives, and viable solutions for resolving the issue.

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    The Gun Debate
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    The facts on firearms: their usage and possession

    Let’s begin with some basic statistics on firearms and how they’re used – and misused – in the US.

    First, who owns firearms, and what reasons do they give for owning them?

    Among wealthy nations, the US has the highest incidence of firearm ownership. Thirty-five percent of households, and 25 percent of adults, own at least one firearm. The rate of firearm ownership has declined in recent years, but firearms sales haven’t. That’s because owners are increasingly likely to purchase more than one firearm in their lifetime. The top 20 percent of firearms owners possess ten or more firearms. In a 2013 survey, 48 percent of firearm owners cited self-protection as their primary reason for owning a firearm. 

    People of all ages, genders, and backgrounds own firearms in the US. But, according to surveys, the typical firearm owner tends to be male and middle-aged. And there are other patterns, too. Someone who has grown up around firearms is three times more likely to own a firearm than someone who hasn’t. Firearm owners usually fall into middle and upper income brackets – likely because a firearm is an expensive purchase. Typically, there’s a higher rate of firearm ownership in rural areas than urban ones. The wide open spaces of some rural areas are well suited for hunting and other shooting sports, which may account for the prevalence of firearm ownership in these communities. Roughly 6 percent of Americans engage in hunting – a small decline from the mid ’90s when 7.4 percent of Americans were involved in the sport.

    At this point, you might be picturing someone heading out into the woods with a rifle over their shoulder. Which leads us to the next important question: What types of firearms do Americans actually own, and why?

    Civilian firearms fall into one of two basic categories. Long guns like rifles and shotguns have barrels that can reach up to 30 inches in length, and they’re designed to be fired from the shoulder. Handguns, by contrast, can be held in one hand and fired. These days, most firearms are repeaters – meaning they don’t need to be reloaded after each shot is fired. Instead, a magazine holding several rounds of ammunition is inserted into the firearm. Magazines can typically carry between 3 and 30 rounds of ammunition. Some magazines have much higher capacity – up to 100 rounds, for instance.

    Long guns are best suited for hunting, while handguns are best suited for self-protection. In cases of criminal misuse, it’s been found that handguns are more likely to be used than long guns.

    Civilian firearms that share key features with military-grade combat weapons, like the capacity to hold a large magazine, are classed as assault weapons. In 1994, the Supreme Court instituted a partial federal ban on assault weapons; the sale of new assault weapons was prohibited, and a number of assault weapon models were recalled. But in 2004, the federal ban was lifted in accordance with the sunset provision – which means a law is automatically terminated after a fixed period of time if it hasn't received legislative approval. Now it’s up to individual states to regulate the sale and possession of assault weapons. Consequently, the ownership of assault weapons varies from state to state.

    Finally, we have to ask a pretty critical question: How many deaths do firearms cause? After all, if this issue weren’t a matter of life and death, it’s unlikely that it would be discussed as passionately as it is in American culture today. 

    The authors found that among wealthy nations outside of war zones, the US reports the highest incidence of firearm-related fatalities every year. Firearms account for approximately 30,000 deaths annually.

    Let’s put this into perspective. In the 30 years between 1984 and 2014, approximately one million Americans died from firearm-related fatalities. That’s a higher number of fatalities than all of the previous combat deaths in US history combined.

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    What is The Gun Debate about?

    The Gun Debate (2014) conveys a clear picture of how firearms are bought, sold, used, and policed in the US. It lists and fact-checks a number of key arguments used by both pro and anti-gun campaigners in the ongoing debate about the parameters of gun control across the country.

    The Gun Debate Review

    The Gun Debate (2014) offers a thorough analysis of America's gun control policies and the ongoing debate surrounding them. Here's why you should give this book a read:

    • It provides a comprehensive examination of the arguments and evidence surrounding gun control, allowing readers to gain a nuanced understanding of the topic.
    • Backed by extensive research and presented in a clear and accessible manner, the book offers valuable insights for both proponents and opponents of gun control.
    • By presenting diverse perspectives and highlighting key case studies, the book sheds light on a complex and highly relevant issue, keeping readers engaged and making it far from boring.

    Who should read The Gun Debate?

    • People who want facts – not opinions – about firearms and their use in the US
    • Americans seeking to better understand the current system of gun control
    • Anyone curious about America’s unique relationship with firearms

    About the Author

    Philip Cook is a professor of public policy, economics, and sociology at Duke University. Kristin Goss is a professor of public policy and political science at Duke University. Both have researched and published extensively on US firearm policies.

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    The Gun Debate FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Gun Debate?

    The main message of The Gun Debate is to provide a comprehensive analysis of gun policy and its impact on public safety.

    How long does it take to read The Gun Debate?

    The reading time for The Gun Debate varies depending on the reader's pace, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in under 15 minutes.

    Is The Gun Debate a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Gun Debate is a valuable read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of gun policy. It offers well-researched insights and thought-provoking analysis.

    Who is the author of The Gun Debate?

    The authors of The Gun Debate are Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss.

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