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Penguin Random House

One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy

One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy

Hardcover

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This “brilliant and gut-wrenching” (The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice)takedown of American gun culture argues that the nation’s founders did not intend the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual right to bear arms—and that this distortion of the record is an urgent threat to democracy.

“At once eye-opening and enraging, One Nation Under Guns is that rare book that can help change the way we live in this country.”—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., bestselling author of Begin Again

More than a hundred lives are lost to firearms every day in America. The cost is more than the numbers—it is the fear, the anxiety, the dread of public spaces that an armed society has created under the tortured rubric of freedom. But the norms of today are not the norms of American history or the values of its founders. They are the product of a gun culture that has imposed its vision on a sleeping nation.

Historian Dominic Erdozain argues that we have wrongly ceded the big-picture argument on guns: As we parse legislation on background checks and automatic-weapons bans, we fail to ask what place guns should have in a functioning democracy. Taking readers on a brilliant historical journey, Erdozain shows how the founders feared the tyranny of individuals as much as the tyranny of kings—the idea that any person had a right to walk around armed was anathema to their notion of freedom and the peaceful republic they hoped to build. They wrote these ideas into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, ideas that were subsequently affirmed by two centuries of jurisprudence.

And yet the twin scourges of racism and nationalism would combine to create a darker American vision—a rogue and reckless freedom based on birth and blood. It was this freedom, not the liberty promised by the Constitution, that generated our modern gun culture, with its mystic conceptions of good guys and bad guys, innocence and guilt. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court reinvented the Second Amendment in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, an opinion that Erdozain convincingly eviscerates, many Americans had already acceded to the fiction: the unfreedom of an armed society. To save our democracy, he argues, we must fight for the founders’ true idea of what it means to be free.

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