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

Gregg Lee Carter, General Editor


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

800.368.6868 for orders


Cloth. 756 continuous pages in a 2 volume set.


ISBN Number 1-57607-268-1

Subjects: Gun Control; Firearms, Law and Legislation; Firearms, Social Aspects.


Booklist Editors' Best Reference Book List, 2003 (Choice): Of all the reference sources published over the last year or so, these are the ones that really caught our attention because they chart new territory, or cover familiar ground in a new way. We chose new rather than revised resources, and also looked for those likely to have broad appeal. Titles were reviewed in RBB from February 2003 through January 2004:


Guns in American Society [is] designed to help readers make informed decisions, this set presents a broad spectrum of opinions and brings together research on all sides of an often murky and divisive issue. Entries cover prominent individuals in the debate, court cases, historical aspects, gun makes, and events such as the Columbine High School shootings.


--American Library Association's Booklist Editors' Choice '03


I can guarantee that gun control will bring up a host of people mashing their teeth on either side of the question! I first came into contact with the editor when he published his well balanced book, The Gun Control Movement (Twayne Publishers) in 1997. Now I listed the members of the editorial board because they are all well published and represent a wide spectrum of the gun control question. I commend Carter and his board because with each name of the many people who contributed to this massive and informative book, they listed the specific articles in the main encyclopedic presentation that each one prepared. This shows that they carefully selected the best, brightest and most prepared to add to the encyclopedia. I do not believe that I have ever seen this before in any other ABC-CLIO publication.

Be prepared is a traditional part of the Boy Scout movement. I would add, be informed. There is so much out there to muddy the editorial waters that a book like this would allow people on both sides of the question to be informed and prepared for the controversy that will surely continue for a long time to come.. I do not believe that a book like this will change anyone's minds, but it gives us a better understanding of what is happening. And through a better understanding, we can prepare ourselves for what we advance. I can write that there is no better book for that purpose than this encyclopedic set.

What you will find are straight forward, factual information on many types of firearms (both modern and historical), legislation that has come down the pike, a thorough discussion of constitutional amendments to ground us in historical background and just plain information on many groups that are on one side or another. I could describe the outstanding ways that you can get to information, a trademark of any ABC-CLIO publication. You will find that here as well.

But I need to commend the likes of people like editor Carter and his editorial board for their truly successful efforts to present the whole picture.

This is the best, well balanced account of the firearms control question that I have ever seen. And it would be essential reading for all.

 --Chuck Hamsa, Reviewers Consortium (August 2003)




Contributed by social scientists, legal experts, members of the ethical and religious communities, and others, this book's 400-plus entries fairly represent the complex issue of firearms use in America. The entries range widely, including many individuals past and present, both in and out of government. A variety of federal and state court cases are covered, as are the ordinances promoted by gun control advocates or opponents, and good background is provided on many issues. For instance, anyone seeking information on sawed-off shotguns, the TEC-DC9 pistol, Saturday night specials, or the Tommy gun will find not only a helpful definition but also a very brief historical sketch, making this book an excellent starting point for researchers unfamiliar with historical gun terminology. In addition, Carter (The Gun Control Movement) has provided a useful guide for sorting through the many relevant organizations and interest groups, and in this regard the encyclopedia is hard to beat. Unfortunately, it proves less successful in placing guns in cultural and social historical context. For example, while some effort is made to discuss the influence of television on gun violence, it is hard to find much about films in either the pre-TV or TV era. And while there is a separate discussion of guns and African Americans, the same cannot be said of other significant racial or ethnic groups. Approximately half the topics covered here duplicate those in Glenn H. Utter's Encyclopedia of Gun Control and Gun Rights, but this book provides fresh material on most of those entries and much more. Thus, despite its limitations, it should serve as the standard reference on many aspects of guns, gun ownership, and gun control in the United States.


--Charles K. Piehl, Library Journal (March 2003)



Less an encyclopedia of guns than a work on their impact on American society, Carter's book is the resource for anyone wishing to explore all aspect of this issue. Each article ends with see also references and suggestions for further reading. A roster of contributors gives their qualifications and lists the entries they wrote. The book explores the historical, social, legal, and political aspects of the gun issue in the US, including personalities of the gun culture. Explanations of legal cases are particularly helpful, and there are entries on the gun laws of Finland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and the UK.


Carter (sociology, Bryant University) has written or edited nine books, including The Gun Control Movement (CH, Feb '98). This work is a fair, balanced assessment of the issue. Both volumes are indexed; the general index that concludes volume 2 prints page numbers in bold face to denote main entries. Appendixes list organizations and cover key laws and state constitutional provisions. Summing Up: Recommended. All libraries.

--D. M Buckley, Choice Magazine (May 2003)


Carter, professor of sociology at [Bryant University] and author of several books, including The Gun Control Movement (Twayne, 1997), has pulled together a fine group of 82 contributors for this title on the legal and social aspects of guns in America. The set represents an attempt to bring together research on all sides of an often murky and divisive issue. Designed for researchers, teachers, students, public officials, law-enforcement personnel, journalists, and members of the general public, its purpose is to help the reader become educated enough on any particular aspect of the gun issue to make an informed decision.

Entries cover a variety of information and present a wide spectrum of opinions. Biographical entries treat legal scholars on the Second Amendment, political leaders, and prominent social activ­ists from all sides. Court cases that featured Second Amendment interpretations are described and feature summations of the pertinent issues. Historical articles, such as Boomtowns, cowtowns, and gun violence and Vigilantism, give a social context to the interaction between American culture and guns. Other articles focus on various gun makes, bullet types, and recent events, such as the Waco, Texas, raid and Columbine High School tragedy, that have driven discussion of gun policy.


Appendixes cover federal laws that have had an impact on the Second Amendment, state gun law, and organizations participating in pro-gun-control and pro-gun-rights activities. Brief entry-specific bibliographies and an extensive selected bibliography will facilitate further research for advanced students or interested cit­izens. A welcome resource on a topic that will continue to be debated for many years to come, this set is recommended for academic and public libraries.

--Booklist (July 2003, p. 1916)



ABC-CLIO has published [an] encyclopedia that address issues of perennial interest to students and lay readers alike: Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture and the Law (2002, 1576072681, $185) is edited by sociologist, Gregg Lee Carter. [This] title should draw interest from public and academic libraries, as well as larger high school libraries.

Browsing through Guns in American Society reinforces an awareness of the pervasiveness of guns in our culture, and throughout our history. Controversial issues from today's headlines like gun control, drive-by shootings, poverty and gun violence, and Second Amendment rights are discussed, as are individual incidents of gun violence like the Texas Tower Shootings, Ruby Ridge, and of course the Columbine High School Tragedy. Balancing this, there are essays on legitimate gun uses like hunting, collecting, target shooting and self-defense. There are also articles on major organizations in the gun debate like the NRA, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as individual players like Congressman John Conyers, the NRA's Walter La Pierre and shooting victim and activist, James Brady.

In addition, a number of articles add historical context. There are essays on topics like the Civil War and Small Arms, Frontier Violence, Dueling, and the Article of Confederation and Gun Control, as well as biographical sketches of historical figures like Eliphalet Remington II, Henry William Herbert, Annie Oakley and John Moses Browning. Rounding out the coverage are articles on relevant court cases, government agencies, influential media outlets, the gun laws of other nations and even specific gun models and types.

Authored by scholars and professionals in the field, Guns in American Society offers a serious and even-handed approach to this complex issue. The writing is factual, to the point and objective. There are also a number of useful features including up-to-date bibliographies, liberal use of "see also" references and a directory of organizations interested in gun issues. This two-volume set will have broad appeal, not only because of the enduring relevance of the topic, but because of the quality of the treatment provided.

--Against the Grain (April 2003)


How guns and violence became part of the fabric of American society is traced through several perspectives in this clearly written, comprehensive resource. Alphabetical entries address topics such as the "American Revolution," "Crime and Gun Use," "Dime Novel and the Sensationalization of Frontier Violence," "Firearm Industry," and"Native Americans and Gun Violence." Short biographical sketches of historical individuals and participants in the comptemporary debate. In addition to fundamental descriptions of the Brady Bill and the National Rifle Association, many obscure terms and organizations are also explained. The source of the right to bear arms is discussed in a six-page entry on the Magna Carta and a multifaceted article on the Second Amendment. Types of guns and ammunition, massacres, court cases, and organizational positions regarding the gun-control issue are also given attention. Under the entry "Gun Magazines," 11 publications are described. Black-and-white photos and charts are scattered throughout. Appendixes include key federal and state gun laws and constitutional provisions, and 13 pages of related organizations. A table of contents in both volumes and a cumulative index in volume two provide easy access. While this is a thorough treatment of a continuing controversy, libraries owning Earl R. Kruschke;s Gun Control (ABC-CLIO, 1995) or especially Glenn H. Utter's Encyclopedia of Gun Control and Gun Rights (Oryx, 1999) may consider it an additional purchase.

--Joanne K. Cecere, School Library Journal (June 2003, p. 88)



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