National Gun Violence Awareness Day Reading List
Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence
A powerful call to end American gun violence from celebrated poets and those most impacted
Focused intensively on the crisis of gun violence in America, this volume brings together poems by dozens of our best-known poets, including Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, Brenda Hillman, Natasha Threthewey, Robert Hass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Juan Felipe Herrera, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
Each poem is followed by a response from a gun violence prevention activist, political figure, survivor, or concerned individual, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams; Senator Christopher Murphy; Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts; survivors of the Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston Emmanuel AME, and Virginia Tech shootings; and Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir, and Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis.
The result is a stunning collection of poems and prose that speaks directly to the heart and a persuasive and moving testament to the urgent need for gun control.
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The Second Amendment: A Biography
Widely acclaimed at the time of its publication, the life story of the most controversial, volatile, misunderstood provision of the Bill of Rights.
At a time of increasing gun violence in America, Waldman’s book provoked a wide range of discussion. This book looks at history to provide some surprising, illuminating answers.
The Amendment was written to calm public fear that the new national government would crush the state militias made up of all (white) adult men—who were required to own a gun to serve. Waldman recounts the raucous public debate that has surrounded the amendment from its inception to the present. As the country spread to the Western frontier, violence spread too. But through it all, gun control was abundant. In the twentieth century, with Prohibition and gangsterism, the first federal control laws were passed. In all four separate times the Supreme Court ruled against a constitutional right to own a gun.
The present debate picked up in the 1970s—part of a backlash to the liberal 1960s and a resurgence of libertarianism. A newly radicalized NRA entered the campaign to oppose gun control and elevate the status of an obscure constitutional provision. In 2008, in a case that reached the Court after a focused drive by conservative lawyers, the US Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution protects an individual right to gun ownership. Famous for his theory of “originalism,” Justice Antonin Scalia twisted it in this instance to base his argument on contemporary conditions.
In The Second Amendment: A Biography, Michael Waldman shows that our view of the amendment is set, at each stage, not by a pristine constitutional text, but by the push and pull, the rough and tumble of political advocacy and public agitation.
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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Who are the immensely wealthy right-wing ideologues shaping the fate of America today? From the bestselling author of The Dark Side, an electrifying work of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group.
In her new preface, Jane Mayer discusses the results of the most recent election and Donald Trump’s victory, and how, despite much discussion to the contrary, this was a huge victory for the billionaires who have been pouring money in the American political system.
Why is America living in an age of profound and widening economic inequality? Why have even modest attempts to address climate change been defeated again and again? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? In a riveting and indelible feat of reporting, Jane Mayer illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats—headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys—who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. Mayer traces a byzantine trail of billions of dollars spent by the network, revealing a staggering conglomeration of think tanks, academic institutions, media groups, courthouses, and government allies that have fallen under their sphere of influence. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.
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Policing the Second Amendment: Guns, Law Enforcement, and the Politics of Race
An urgent look at the relationship between guns, the police, and race
The United States is steeped in guns, gun violence–and gun debates. As arguments rage on, one issue has largely been overlooked–Americans who support gun control turn to the police as enforcers of their preferred policies, but the police themselves disproportionately support gun rights over gun control. Yet who do the police believe should get gun access? When do they pursue aggressive enforcement of gun laws? And what part does race play in all of this? Policing the Second Amendment unravels the complex relationship between the police, gun violence, and race. Rethinking the terms of the gun debate, Jennifer Carlson shows how the politics of guns cannot be understood–or changed–without considering how the racial politics of crime affect police attitudes about guns.
Drawing on local and national newspapers, interviews with close to eighty police chiefs, and a rare look at gun licensing processes, Carlson explores the ways police talk about guns, and how firearms are regulated in different parts of the country. Examining how organizations such as the National Rifle Association have influenced police perspectives, she describes a troubling paradox of guns today–while color-blind laws grant civilians unprecedented rights to own, carry, and use guns, people of color face an all-too-visible system of gun criminalization. This racialized framework–undergirding who is “a good guy with a gun” versus “a bad guy with a gun”–informs and justifies how police understand and pursue public safety.
Policing the Second Amendment demonstrates that the terrain of gun politics must be reevaluated if there is to be any hope of mitigating further tragedies.
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Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Loaded is like a blast of fresh air. She is no fan of guns or of our absurdly permissive laws surrounding them. But she does not merely take the liberal side of the familiar debate.–Adam Hochschild, The New York Review of Books
If . . . anyone at all really wants to ‘get to the root causes of gun violence in America, ‘ they will need to start by coming to terms with even a fraction of what Loaded proposes.—Los Angeles Review of Books
Her analysis, erudite and unrelenting, exposes blind spots not just among conservatives, but, crucially, among liberals as well. . . . As a portrait of the deepest structures of American violence, Loaded is an indispensable book.–The New Republic
Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, is a deeply researched–and deeply disturbing–history of guns and gun laws in the United States, from the original colonization of the country to the present. As historian and educator Dunbar-Ortiz explains, in order to understand the current obstacles to gun control, we must understand the history of U.S. guns, from their role in the settling of America and the early formation of the new nation, and continuing up to the present.
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The NRA: The Unauthorized History
For the first time, the definitive account of America’s most powerful, most secretive, and most controversial nonprofit, and how far it has strayed from its origins.
The National Rifle Association is unique in American life. Few other civic organizations are as old or as large. None is as controversial. It is largely due to the NRA that the U.S. gun policy differs so extremely — some would say so tragically — from that of every other developed nation. But, as Frank Smyth shows, the NRA has evolved from an organization concerned above all with marksmanship — and which supported most government efforts around gun control for a hundred years — to one that resists all attempts to restrict guns in any way. At the same time, the organization has also buried its own remarkable history.
Here is that story, from the NRA’s surprising roots in post-Civil War New York City to the defining event that changed its culture forever — the so called “Cincinnati Revolt” of 1977 — to the present day, where President Donald Trump is the most ardent champion in the White House the NRA has ever had. For anyone who has looked at access to guns in our society and asked “Why?”, this is an unmatched account of how we got here, and who got us here.
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Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia within the Most Powerful Political Group in America
A shocking exposé of rampant, decades-long incompetence at the National Rifle Association, as told by a former member of its senior leadership.
Joshua L. Powell is the NRA–a lifelong gun advocate, in 2016, he began his new role as a senior strategist and chief of staff to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
What Powell uncovered was horrifying: “the waste and dysfunction at the NRA was staggering.”
INSIDE THE NRA reveals for the first time the rise and fall of the most powerful political organization in America–how the NRA became feared as the Death Star of Washington lobbies and so militant and extreme as “to create and fuel the toxicity of the gun debate until it became outright explosive.”
INSIDE THE NRA explains this intentional toxic messaging was wholly the product of LaPierre’s leadership and the extremist branding by his longtime PR puppet master Angus McQueen. In damning detail, Powell exposes the NRA’s plan to “pour gasoline” on the fire in the fight against gun control, to sow discord to fill its coffers, and to secure the presidency for Donald J. Trump.
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Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns
Join the conversation about creating a future with fewer guns and finally make a difference–this smart, thoughtful, commonsense plan (Donna Brazile) shows you how
Ninety-six people die from guns in America every single day. Twelve thousand Americans are murdered each year. The United States has more mass shootings, gun suicides, and nonfatal gun injuries than any other industrialized country in the world. Gun-safety advocates have tried to solve these problems with incremental changes such as background checks and banning assault style military weapons. They have fallen short. In order to significantly and permanently reduce gun deaths the United States needs a bold new approach: a drastic reduction of the 390 million guns already in circulation and a new movement dedicated to a future with fewer guns.
In Guns Down, Igor Volsky tells the story of how he took on the NRA just by using his Twitter account, describes how he found common ground with gun enthusiasts after spending two days shooting guns in the desert, and lays out a blueprint for how citizens can push their governments to reduce the number of guns in circulation and make firearms significantly harder to get. An aggressive licensing and registration initiative, federal and state buybacks of millions of guns, and tighter regulation of the gun industry, the gun lobby, and gun sellers will build safer communities for all. Volsky outlines a New Second Amendment Compact developed with policy experts from across the political spectrum, including bold reforms that have succeeded in reducing gun violence worldwide, and offers a road map for achieving transformative change to increase safety in our communities.
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Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun
This devastating book illuminates America’s gun culture — its manufacturers, dealers, buffs, and propagandists — but also offers concrete solutions to our national epidemic of death by firearm. It begins with an account of a crime that is by now almost commonplace: on December 16, 1988, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Elliot walked into his Virginia high school with a Cobray M-11/9 and several hundred rounds of ammunition tucked in his backpack. By day’s end, he had killed one teacher and severely wounded another.
In Lethal Passage Erik Larson shows us how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as “the gun that made the eighties roar.” The result is a book that can — and should — save lives, and that has already become an essential text in the gun-control debate.
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Parkland: Birth of a Movement
On the first anniversary of the events at Parkland, the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of Columbine offers an intimate, deeply moving account of the extraordinary teenage survivors who became activists and pushed back against the NRA and feckless Congressional leaders—inspiring millions of Americans to join their grassroots #neveragain movement.
Nineteen years ago, Dave Cullen was among the first to arrive at Columbine High, even before most of the SWAT teams went in. While writing his acclaimed account of the tragedy, he suffered two bouts of secondary PTSD. He covered all the later tragedies from a distance, working with a cadre of experts cultivated from academia and the FBI, but swore he would never return to the scene of a ghastly crime.
But in March 2018, Cullen went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School because something radically different was happening. In nearly twenty years witnessing the mass shootings epidemic escalate, he was stunned and awed by the courage, anger, and conviction of the high school’s students. Refusing to allow adults and the media to shape their story, these remarkable adolescents took control, using their grief as a catalyst for change, transforming tragedy into a movement of astonishing hope that has galvanized a nation.
Cullen unfolds the story of Parkland through the voices of key participants whose diverse personalities and outlooks comprise every facet of the movement. Instead of taking us into the mind of the killer, he takes us into the hearts of the Douglas students as they cope with the common concerns of high school students everywhere—awaiting college acceptance letters, studying for mid-term exams, competing against their athletic rivals, putting together the yearbook, staging the musical Spring Awakening, enjoying prom and graduation—while moving forward from a horrific event that has altered them forever.
Deeply researched and beautifully told, Parkland is an in-depth examination of this pivotal moment in American culture—and an up-close portrait that reveals what these extraordinary young people are like. As it celebrates the passion of these astonishing students who are making history, this spellbinding book is an inspiring call to action for lasting change.
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Fred Guttenberg’s Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me about Recovery, Purpose, and Hope (School Safety, Grief Recovery)
Life changed forever on Valentine’s Day 2018 for Fred Guttenberg and his family. What should have been a day of love turned into a nightmare. Seventeen people died at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Fourteen-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was the second to last victim.
“Fred Guttenberg is a hero.” ―Lawrence O’Donnell. That Jaime and so many of her fellow students were struck down in cold blood galvanized many to action, including Jaime’s father Fred now a gun safety activist dedicated to passing common sense gun safety legislation.
Fred was already struggling with deep personal loss. Four months earlier his brother Michael died of 9/11 induced pancreatic cancer. He had been exposed to too much dust and chemicals at Ground Zero. Michael battled heroically for nearly five years and then died at age fifty.
Find the Helpers has a special meaning to the Guttenberg’s. It was a beloved family wisdom learned from watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In the midst of tragedy, “always look for the helpers. There will always be helpers. Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know there’s hope.” ―Fred Rogers, 1999
Healing from grief. Discover the story of Fred Guttenberg’s activist’s journey since Jaime’s death and how he has been able to get through the worst of times thanks to the kindness and compassion of others. Good things happen to good people at the hands of other good people─and the world is filled with them. They include everyone from amazing gun violence survivors Fred has met to former VP Joe Biden, who spent time talking to him about finding mission and purpose in learning to grieve.
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Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World
Shannon Watts was a stay-at-home mom folding laundry when news of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary flashed across the television screen. In one moment, she went from outraged to engaged and decided to do something about it. What started as a simple Facebook group to connect with other frustrated parents grew into Moms Demand Action, a national movement with millions of supporters and a powerful grassroots network of local chapters in all 50 states. Shannon has been called “the NRA’s worst nightmare”—and her army of moms have bravely gone up against the gun lobby, showing up in their signature red shirts, blocking the hallways of congress with their strollers, electing gun sense candidates and running for office themselves, proving that if the 80 million moms in this country come together, they can put an end to gun violence.
Fight Like a Mother is the incredible account how one mother’s cry for change became the driving force behind gun safety progress. Along with stories of perseverance, courage, and compassion, Watts shines a light on the unique power of women—starting with what they have, leading with their maternal strengths, and doubling down instead of backing down. While not everyone can be on the front lines lobbying congress, every mom is already a multi-tasking organizer, and Shannon explains how to go from amateur activist to having a real impact in your community and beyond. Fight Like a Mother will inspire everyone—mothers and fathers, students and teachers, lawmakers, and anyone motivated to enact change—to get to work transforming hearts and minds, and passing laws that save lives.
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Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America
A provocative history that reveals how guns—not abortion, race, or religion—are at the heart of America’s cultural divide. Gunfight is a timely work examining America’s four-centuries-long political battle over gun control and the right to bear arms. In this definitive and provocative history, Adam Winkler reveals how guns—not abortion, race, or religion—are at the heart of America’s cultural divide. Using the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller—which invalidated a law banning handguns in the nation’s capital—as a springboard, Winkler brilliantly weaves together the dramatic stories of gun-rights advocates and gun-control lobbyists, providing often unexpected insights into the venomous debate that now cleaves our nation.
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Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives
Winner of the 2017 J. Anthony Lukas PrizeShortlisted for the 2017 Hurston/Wright Foundation AwardFinalist for the 2017 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in JournalismLonglisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non Fiction
On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost.
This powerful and moving work puts a human face-a child’s face-on the “collateral damage” of gun deaths across the country. This is not a book about gun control, but about what happens in a country where it does not exist. What emerges in these pages is a searing and urgent portrait of youth, family, and firearms in America today.