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Lethal Passage: How the Travels of a Single Handgun Expose the Roots of America's Gun Crisis Paperback – January 25, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (January 25, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517596776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517596777
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,751,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this valiant, innovative, effective and timely study, Wall Street Journal reporter Larson considers the case of Nicholas Elliot, 16, who went on a shooting rampage on December 16, 1988, in the Virginia religious high school he attended, leaving one teacher dead. The author concentrates not on the teenager, however, but on the gun he fired, a semiautomatic Cobray M-11/9. Larson uses the pistol to explore the history of America's love for guns and to show how firearms manufacturers, dealers, book and magazine publishers, aided by the "paranoid, Constitution-thumping" National Rifle Association and the media, all bear responsibility for the culture of "non-responsibility" concerning guns. He concludes by proposing a five-part omnibus law, the Life and Liberty Preservation Act, which, he persuasively argues, would close most of the loopholes in current legislation. Author tour.
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.

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

What if he studied a gun that was not used in a crime?
Ray Stephanson
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.
GiantRobo
If I wanted to read any anti-gun novel I would have looked for one.
James H. Bello Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 84 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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19 of 26 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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5 of 6 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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2 of 2 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 Verified Purchase
I've been doing some research on gun control, and since I've always enjoyed Larson's historical writing, I ordered this book. It is well researched and well written--no surprises here. The topic is terrifying, and Larson does a great job of maintaining as objective a writerly view as he can. Great book for anyone interested in the topic of gun control.
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By Eric S. Magelssen on March 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very well written book that every person should read about guns and why we should create strict laws to control them.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not what I thought it was going to cover. Was more about the legal part of gun ownership...covering numerous laws and rules. Couldn't wait to finish it. It was a toss-up between 1 or 2 stars. I would say, save your money!
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