Cover Image: Vote Gun

Vote Gun

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Vote Gun is an interesting look at how gun rights became more and more partisan. Patrick J. Charles shows us how that happened through bills, advertising, and assassinations of political figures. Overall, Vote Gun is incredibly informative for anyone interested in the topic, but the writing does get a bit dry in places.
Was this review helpful?
Vote Gun by Patrick J Charles is an interesting look at how an issue that had never been particularly partisan became so.

The early history will likely be what surprises some readers who have grown up in a partisan environment. Gun rights and regulation were largely local and state issues and each locality tended to have their own comfort zone, with politicians on both sides of the aisle as likely to support or oppose regulation.

Like so many elements in US history, race plays a role in how this became a partisan issue. As opposition to civil rights took a state's rights position, it joined forces with the gun rights faction that, after JFK's assassination, arose in opposition to federal regulation. This joining of forces, along with the Dixiecrats migrating to the party that supported segregation made both civil rights and gun control partisan issues.

While Charles points out that the California legislation was not introduced in direct response to the Black Panthers, he acknowledges that its passage was expedited because of them. In other words, race played an issue in why it became law sooner and with less debate. It was not simply about second amendment and police support, even prior to the Black Panthers. It was introduced because white groups, largely vigilante in nature, were forming in neighborhoods around the state. It was when Black groups might start forming that the passage was guaranteed and expedited.

What I found most interesting were the various cartoons and political advertisements, and even the business ads that used gun rights/regulation as part of their message. It is in these artifacts that the society of the period comes through the most. It isn't debate in either academic halls or government legislatures, it is what people and organizations feel comfortable putting out there for all to see. What is passing as accepted public commentary shows far more clearly the type of society that exists, then as today.

Highly recommended for those interested in both the rise of the NRA as we know it today and the history of gun policy as a whole. With the inclusion of the advertisements, this also becomes valuable for those with an interest in social history.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
This book is valuable for several reasons.  First, Charles shows that the gun issue, although some historians and writers would like to argue it is, is actually not a new topic in politics and in American society at large.  He convincingly busts the myth that it only became a wedge issue in the 1970s, as campaign finance allowed the NRA more leverage in politics.  Chapter 1 of the book shows how this rhetoric really began with local rule on guns, rather than making it a federal issue.  Components of Charles argument involved the NRA, but also the 1911 Sullivan Law in New York and the threat of a "5th column" on the homefront in WWII.  

I had never heard of the 1961 TV program "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms" hosted by Peter Gunn, This shows, however, that the issue was bantered about even during the Kennedy years.  

Ch. 5 really does a nice job looking at the evolution of NRA politics.  What I found really important was Charles' discussion of CA Bill 1591.  There always seems to be this argument put forth about black power and the Black Panther Party, which was castigated for openly carrying their firearms.  The usual argument was that the subsequent law was passed to crack down on vigilant groups, but Charles makes it clear that it was more about protecting the 2nd amendment and helping police.  

Nixon's involvement in the regulation of Saturday Night Specials also is a great contribution to our understanding of the issue.

All around, the book is a great read for anyone looking for more insight into the issue of guns in modern American history, but it is also a great book that looks at the impact of interest groups and lobbying efforts.
Was this review helpful?