After a fifteen-year hiatus from the world of guns, journalist, sports shooter, and former soldier A.J. Somerset no longer fit in with other firearm enthusiasts. Theirs was a culture much different than the one he remembered: a culture more radical, less tolerant, and more immovable in its beliefs, “as if [each] gun had come with a free, bonus ideological Family Pack [of political tenets], a ready-made identity.” To find the origins of this surprising shift, Somerset began mapping the cultural history of guns and gun ownership in North America. Arms: The Culture and Credo of Gun is the brilliant result.
How were firearms transformed from tools used by pioneers into symbols of modern manhood? Why did the NRA’s focus shift from encouraging responsible gun use to lobbying against gun-safety laws? What is the relationship between gun ownership and racism in America? How have the film, television, and video game industries molded our perception of gun violence? When did the fear of gun seizures arise, and how has it been used to benefit arms manufacturers, lobbyists, and the far-right?
Few ideas divide communities as much as those involving firearms, and fewer authors are able to tackle the subject with the same authority, humor, and intelligence. Written from the unique perspective of a gun lover who’s disgusted with what gun culture has become, Arms is destined to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
Praise for Arms and A.J. Somerset
“What makes his book entertaining, often funny and ultimately an important addition to the limited canon on guns is that Somerset is a gun guy. He owns them, shoots them and loves them. And yet he is exasperated because gun owners, along with their culture and rhetoric, have increasingly ‘grown more radical,’ leaving ‘anyone who breaks ranks’ as a ‘traitor to the cause.'”—Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post Book World
“What we talk about when we talk about guns: How did they become as American as baseball and as sacred as Jesus? And is there any going back? These are among the questions explored by a onetime soldier in an unflinching journey across our cultural battlefields.”—O Magazine
“A one-time soldier, [Somerset] paints a convincing picture … Yet he maintains a consistent sense of humor—self-deprecating, gruff, curmudgeonly.”—Globe & Mail
“[Arms is] a pleasingly acerbic popular history—an equal-opportunity lambasting of everyone from American gun weenies to Canadian cultural nationalists.”—Maclean’s
“Rambling, tragic, and surprisingly funny.”—Quill & Quire
“In Arms, Somerset investigates the evolution of the gun as technology and as totem, exploring how a simple tool transformed into the symbol of a nation and a nation divided.”—Inverse.com
“A very interesting read … and not what you might expect … if gun culture fascinates you … I’d encourage you to check it out.”—Ryan Jespersen, CHED
“Absolutely fabulous.”—Terry Moore, The Drive, CFAX