Outgunned: Up Against the NRA
The First Complete Insider Account of the Battle Over Gun Control
Peter Harry Brown and Daniel G. Abel, Outgunned: Up Against the NRA: The First Complete Insider Account of the battle Over Gun Control, New York, The Free Press, 2002, 338 pp.
I admit it. I couldn't put this one down. I know a lot about the inside of the gun control movement, but this fast-paced journalistic account of how the NRA attacked and isolated the venerable Smith & Wesson gun manufacturers when their CEO fashioned a compromise deal with anti-gun litigators, how they took over another gun lobby, the American Shooting Sports Council, that was becoming to compliant and complacent, put all the pieces together for me. Co-author Daniel G. Abel, part of the Catano Litigation Group started by the colorful New Orleans attorney Wendell Gauthier, teamed up with Peter Brown, a journalist, to tell the story of how Gauthier, who had made fame and fortune tackling tobacco companies, decided to take on the gun industry as the next big cause. Gauthier died before the suit was settled, but he launched a litigation process that forms the spine of this tingling story.
In Outgunned, you'll see the tactics of Charlton Heston and the NRA up close. For me, it was the close juxtaposition of NRA maneuvering alongside the dramatic retelling and rendering of heart-breaking gun massacres like Columbine, followed by explanations of what sort of guns were used and how they were acquired, that gives the book its real power. Frankly, there have been so many horrendous multiple shootings in the U.S. in the last few years (leaving aside the daily body count from shootings across the country) that it is hard to keep them straight or even remember them all. But here, we feel again the horror of Columbine as teacher David Sanders slowly bleeds to death because the SWAT teams have been intimidated and held at bay by the sheer firepower of two teenage boys. As you read how even one of the guns, a semiautomatic assault style TEC-9, was easily sold to teenagers after its manufacturer rushed to flood the market before the Assault Weapons Ban, you will want to regulate this consumer market. When you see how the NRA responded so callously to the growing gun control sentiment that followed in the wake of Columbine and other shootings, you will be appalled. I assume, like me, you will want to get reengaged in the gun control movement, despite its uncertainties and failings which are also on display here.
Outgunned would make a good movie. Or put another way, it offers a more focused and substantive, yet entertaining, companion piece to Michael Moore's Bowling in Columbine. It is at times depressing, but it ends on a note of hope even as it follows the NRA right on into the Bush White House and Justice Department. After all the money spent, the despicable tactics, and the right-wing theatricality of Charlton Heston, the gun lawsuits that claim that handgun manufacturers are liable, under public nuisance law, for failing to oversee the distributors of their deadly products, are still alive. As we head into the 2004 election season, anti-gun forces also need to forcefully remind the American public of what is at stake in terms of human life and who, from the NRA, to gun manufacturers, to the White House, is responsible. Outgunned is a good place to start.
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