Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture and the Law, Revised Edition

Gregg Lee Carter, Editor


ABC-CLIO, 130 Cremona Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93116

800.368.6868 for orders


Cloth. 1,096 continuous pages in a 3 volume set.


ISBN Number:  978-0-313-38670-1



--American Library Association's Booklist Editors' Choice: Reference Sources, 2012

The outrage over the recent Colorado movie-theater tragedy and the controversy surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin serve as reminders that although the pro- and anti-gun-control camps are diametrically opposed in their views on the issue, gun violence and attempts to limit it continue to be major issues in America and sources for much concern. A revision to the highly acclaimed 2003 edition, Guns in American Society has reentered the debate over guns in U.S. society, remaining above the partisan vitriol in an effort to educate users attempting to make informed decisions. Carter and a team of 102 scholarly contributors have scanned the legal, political, and social landscape over the previous nine years, adding an extensive chronology and more than 100 new entries that cover a variety of topics that include both the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 2011 Tucson, Arizona, shootings. Ranging in scope from AK-47 to Zip guns, individual entries encompass a wide variety of topics, the majority of which concern important personages (James S. Brady, Diane Feinstein, and Joseph P. Tartaro); notable court cases (Beecham v. United States, Nunn v. State of Georgia, and United States v. Cruikshank); as well as entries for general terms, including Crime and gun use, Japan gun laws, Open carry laws, and Trigger locks. Examples of other entries include Assault weapons, Columbine High School tragedy, Firearm dealers, Police shootings, and Ruby Ridge. Each entry includes see also terms for cross-referencing and a number of secondary sources for further research. The final volume concludes with an annotated list of key federal and state gun laws; listings and contact information for relevant national, state, and federal organizations “concerned with the role of guns in contemporary American society,” such as the American Civil Liberties Union, National Rifle Association, and the National Center for Injury Prevention; and an expansive annotated bibliography. A combination of solid scholarship, relevant subject matter, and efficient cross-referencing makes this set a must-have for public and high-school libraries supporting this perennial research topic. Highly recommended.


Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 3 | Spring 2013, p. 268 (


Well received by reviewers as a two-volume set at its initial appearance in 2002, this examination of American gun culture has now been expanded to three volumes, with an additional 300 or so pages or so of new and/or updated material. The subtitle gives the researcher a good idea of its contents; among the approximately 500 articles may be found such topics as Congressional legislation (“Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act [Brady Bill]”); United States Supreme Court decisions (“District of Columbia v. Heller [2008]”); various aspects of gun-related crimes (“Drive-by Shootings,” “Crime and Gun Use”); interest groups, both pro and antigun (“Stop Handgun Violence,” “National Rifle Association”); and a plethora of other subjects. Not surprisingly, firearms themselves are featured prominently, not only in the guise of the products per se, such as the AK-47 assault rifle, but biographical sketches of those who brought these into existence, such as Samuel Colt, Eliphalet Remington, and Oliver Winchester. Each article is signed by the writer responsible for its creation and concludes with a list of further reading resources. The entire set is well illustrated with crisp black and white photographs, charts, tables, and other graphic material.


Additionally, a number of special features make this set particularly valuable from a research standpoint. An introductory essay sets the stage for the entries that follow, in an attempt to put the debate surrounding gun ownership and use in its historical and sociological context. A detailed chronology “presents the long and broad range of watershed events that have shaped the contemporary gun debate in American society” (“Chronology,” xxiii). Three appendixes list key federal gun laws, key state gun laws, and major gun-related organizations, listing full contact information. Lastly, an extensive bibliography of scholarly literature lists important books, journal articles, and websites representative of this field of study.


Gregg Lee Carter holds a doctoral degree from Columbia University. He is currently a Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of History and Social Sciences at Bryant University, located in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He has published widely in the field of firearms studies; among the twenty-two works he has either authored or edited are The Gun Control Movement (1997) and Gun Control in the United States: A Reference Handbook (2006), in addition to the first edition of the current title. Carter and five other academics comprise the editorial board that oversaw the creation of this set. The 102 listed contributors include college professors, lawyers, and members of various think tanks and public policy organizations.


This is an excellent introduction to the contentious debate revolving around the ownership, use, and misuse of firearms within the United States. The articles are objective and evenhanded in their examination of the myriad issues involving guns, gunpowder, and bullets. In his preface, Carter states that the goal of this set is to “help the reader navigate the research and become educated enough on any particular aspect of the gun issue to make an informed decision” (xv). In this reviewer’s opinion, his objective has been well met, and this second edition surpasses in quality the already solid initial attempt. Therefore, this title is highly recommended for purchase by all public and academic libraries.


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