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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679759271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679759270
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal reporter Larson has written a new afterword to this timely study of American gun culture.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this work, Larson interweaves the story of a boy and his gun (a 16-year-old who kills one teacher and wounds another with a member of the infamous MAC-10 family) with a study of the causes and effects of our gun-happy society. He admits that he has no problem with using handguns for sport or even as a last line of self-defense. But he goes on to propose a model bill calling for sweeping changes in laws governing the distribution, sale, and design of firearms. It's a pity that, by producing a reasonably balanced account of an incendiary subject, Larson will probably alienate both the pro- and antigun camps, and his bill, as he acknowledges, "doesn't have a chance in hell of being passed." Highly recommended nonetheless. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/93.
- Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Erik Larson is a writer, journalist and novelist. Nominated for a Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism on The Wall Street Journal, he has taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State and Johns Hopkins.

Customer Reviews

This book focuses on only one of thousands of illicit gun transactions, just one.
M. Greenberg
In is usual style he weaves a portrait of a character and events with historical information that is well researched and presented in a fascinating way.
John Bischoff
Sadly most people don't realize these sorts of things when they vote their rights away.
Steyr AUG

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 80 people found the following review helpful By T. Dassing on April 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
When I read Erik Larson, I know I'm in for a treat, and this was no exception. This book not only tells the story of how a bullied boy takes his anger out using a gun at school, but the story of the inadequicies of gun legislation and the winding road the NRA has taken interpreting the 2nd Amendment. The one irony I found that Larson points out is that it's harder to get a driver's license than it is to get a gun in the United States. What I like most about the book is that Larson provides a solution to the gun problem and outlines a very reasonable and comprehensive bill regarding the use and regulations of guns. But I have to agree it would be impossible to get through legislation, not because it's unworthy, but because our current government is a messy monolith of a bureacracy where nothing gets done due to poor representation, egos, and political shortsightedness--in my humble opinion. Our forefathers would roll over in their graves if they could see what has become of our sacred 2nd Amendment. Excellent book by an author who does his homework.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Carlson on September 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun is the story of American gun culture told through the story of bullied schoolboy Nicholas Elliot, who plots his revenge by acquiring a handgun and then opening up on his teachers and classmates in a private Christian school in Virginia in December, 1988. Larson traces the history of the Cobray M-11/9 from its creation to its arrival in the hand of an angry young man in the context of (deliberately) lax legislation that makes it easier to get a gun than to get a driver's license in the United States.

Larson challenges the myths that suggest that gun ownership is part and parcel of the American character by citing statistics that show how our permissive gun culture undermines the safety and security we crave.

Larson does his research and tells one compelling story.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GiantRobo on July 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
I first read this book almost two decades ago, and in light of the recent tragic shootings in Colorado it resonates even more with me now. The research Larsen makes doesn't lie - it shows how lax enforcement of gun "laws" allowed a troubled youth to gain access to a weapon made solely for the purpose of killing. No amount of NRA "hunting" and home defense arguments can outweigh the fact that not only was he given this gun by a relative, it was purchased with the full complicity of the gun store owner who worked the system to allow a minor access to lethal firepower.

The only silver lining here (if you can call it that) is that the gun was so cheaply made it jammed as he was using it, allowing teachers to tackle him, saving no doubt countless lives through a manufacturing defect. The lives were certainly not saved by the people who sold the gun, or the relative (uncle?) who made sure his nephew had one.

This book should be required reading for anyone who wants to debate the merits of gun control.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elly Phant on November 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This must have been Erik Larsen's first published book of this type. I thought it was somewhat interesting, but way too full of statistics (don't need that much) and too empty of story, which is what he excels at. I have read 3-4 of his other books; I'd give all of them a five-star.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michele Merchant on July 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because it mentioned a prominent citizen in my little town, and I wanted to look at Mr. Larson's references to find out about the murder of this person. Mr. Larson did not solve my mystery but he wrote a fascinating book about a gun, the Cobray M-11/9, a type of gun that had been used in many crimes across the country in the '80's. He described how this gun got into the hands of criminals. Most often through legal sources (what a surprise). Well written, a real page turner! read it in a day.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Lauro on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is, as are all his books, classic Erik Larson. It is well written and was meticulously researched. The huge amount of information is presented in a way that is riveting. It is so well written that I found it difficult emotionally. One cannot read this book and be indifferent. It is for those with a strong character.
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Format: Paperback
I used to be a HUGE fan of Larson. Then I read this piece of unsubstantiated trash. It's clear he has a anti-gun agenda from the start. His conclusions and ideas are exactly the opposite from truth and spit in the face of what makes this country great: FREEDOM. I'm sure anti-gun idiots will eat this up. Just know this - every gun stat available proves him wrong. Facts don't lie. Opinions however do delude.

Once again the most important point is ignored - the human being involved. The gun is not the problem. It's the human pulling the trigger on the gun. THAT is what much be fixed. Take away the gun and the evil heart is still there, beating away inside this young man. He would have found other ways to hurt people. The human factor must be the focus with all violence, not the object used to enact it. If you disagree do you also want alcohol controlled? Knives? Bats? All these things kill far more people than guns do. Of course you don't. You don't view the liquor bottle as the problem, you view the DRINKER as the problem. Thus, the SHOOTER should be the problem.

Look, this country was founded on the ability to protect ourselves from tyranny. It's in our Constitution. These repeated attempts to censor that document will always fail in the end. Yes, we are lazy and hard to motivate in the year 2014. But there is a limit to how far people will be pushed. The anti-gun crowd continues to severely underestimate how many pro-gun people there are in this country. They will better understand once that line is crossed.
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