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The Politics of Gun Control, 5th Edition Paperback – September 30, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1594519871 ISBN-10: 1594519870 Edition: 5th

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Rights at Risk
Join Pulitzer Prize–winner David K. Shipler as he explores the territory where the Constitution meets everyday America. As you read this book, cast your own opinion on whether the civil liberties we rightly take for granted have actually been eroded. Learn more
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers; 5 edition (September 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594519870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594519871
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although someone is murdered in the U.S. every 21 minutes, and in more than 50% of the cases by handguns, Americans cling to the gun culture with a tenacity that transcends all reason. Clearly, primordial meanings are at work here, a symbolism as profound as it is irrational. Spitzer discusses the various dimensions of the controversy with a rare balance and maturity. The author first analyzes the Second Amendment, drawing out its legal interpretations (an ``armed militia'' is not quite the same as drug dealers with AK-47s). He then examines the consequences of guns to the nation, from injury to accidents, homicide to suicide; the political battle between the NRA and Handgun Control Inc.; and the history of policy making, culminating in the assault weapons ban and the Brady bill. Spitzer ends the book by suggesting a new public policy based on an international model, one that includes nonproliferation of new weapons and arms control for those that already exist, but whether this form of regulation would work is a moot point. It is not so much the hunting ethos that keeps guns in 70 million American homes but the cultural mythology that champions self-reliance and a frontier ethic.

Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


[Offers] a formula that might move the gun debate off dead center. --E. J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post (4/21/99)

The Politics of Gun Control does an excellent job of introducing undergraduates to the policy area in a way that engages them and facilitates the development of their critical and analytical abilities. Robert J. Spitzer admirably covers all of the key matters pertaining to gun control. The book provides a theoretical framework, the necessary discussion of the Second Amendment, a thorough analysis of the problem of guns and gun control, good treatment of the politics of gun control (political parties, interest groups, citizens), and some nice case studies. The book's scholarship is sturdy and does not reflect any appreciable bias. I believe that this is the best text on policy making in a particular area currently in print. --Patrick Pierce, Saint Mary's College

The Spitzer book was the first book I assigned for my junior-level public policy course. It worked just as I had planned because it was a real-life, exciting, controversial example upon which we could build an understanding of the policy process. Spitzer engages the students with the controversy but continuously puts the emphasis on policy issues like the Second Amendment, the gun and antigun lobbies, the complexities of the federal system, and the evolution of a national policy. --Janet Frantz, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 83 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Not concerned with the efficacy..." of gun control laws. That about sums up The Politics of Gun Control. Dr. Spitzer started out to write a book exploring the policy resolution ramifications of gun control, but along the way he got sucked into arguments for the pro and con of gun control, and ended up delivering a weak polemic for stricter gun control laws.
Dr. Spitzer's original question intrigued me greatly. How, in a civilized society, does one develop a rational and moral course of action when so many competing interests are so stridently opposed to each other? What are the proper roles of the courts, of the federal government (both legislative and executive branches), of local government, and of advocacy groups, in determining the proper direction for government policy? Sadly, after posing these questions, The Politics of Gun Control fails to deliver, beyond the superfluous finale that the gun control dilemma can be resolved by treating gun control similarly to international arms control. (Suffice it to say I was unconvinced.)
Alternatively, as pro-control literature, The Politics of Gun Control fails utterly. Unlike Dr. Kleck's Targeting Guns, The Politics of Gun Control offers little insight into the methodologies of the studies cited, why one may be better than another, and offers virtually no explanation of the plausible mechanisms that underlie quoted study's results.
For other examples of the failings inherent in The Politics of Gun Control, consider the following:
- Many of the significant citations are taken from newspapers and magazines. While this may be acceptable for anecdotal recollections, it is not sufficient for scientific analysis.
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27 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Spitzer offers a very readable scholarly treatment of this crucial public policy issue. He does a very thorough job of analyzing the problem of gun violence in America and makes clear and reasonable arguments about appropriate public policy responses. This is a must read for anyone interested in the issue.
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37 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found Mr. Spitzer's book to be quite informative and thought-provoking. In regard to the question of evidence, I don't know what book Mr. Anderson of Portland, OR read, but Spitzer's book has an ample and varied list of sources (pages 154-203), about a quarter of the entire book. Most of his sources are respectable journals such as the Journal of the AMA and the NE Journal of Medicine, and he also cites many Supreme Court decisions in his examination of the Second Amendment's meaning. To Prof. Spitzer's credit, he also consulted the familiar sources on the pro-gun side of the debate: Kleck, Gertz, Kates, Rossi, et al. I'm sure that Spitzer will be accused of being "biased" or "liberal" because most of his conclusions do not support the pro-gun arguments, but please note that he, at times, does find some value in the questions that their research raises (see his comments on Kleck's doubts about a comprehensive national survey, pages 56-57). Spitzer's treatment of the Brady Law is also even-handed (pages 125-26).
Spitzer's book provoked me to thinking about the gun issue in new ways. His thesis that the gun-control debate is largely one of public-policy making in which "elephantine political forces battle over political mice" (page 136) is developed very well throughout. I also found his examination of the NRA quite interesting. After reading it, I began to feel that the organization has really hurt its own rank-and-file base by overly politicizing the issue of firearms. There must be a lot of outdoor enthusiasts and sportsman who don't think that the proliferation of automatic weapons and KTW armor-piercing bullets (aka, "cop-killer bullets") would make America a safer place.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Newsman78 on September 11, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike one of the other previous reviewers, though I am generally a conservative, I would agree with this book's primary conclusion: the NRA has had a disproportionate impact on the politics of gun control.

The legal and constitutional analysis of the Second Amendment also does not seem to be much in dispute. Perhaps there is some evidence he does not cite for thinking that it goes back to an individual right to bear arms, but as conceived by those who wrote it, the Second Amendment was clearly intended to protect the rights of state militias.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this issue, scholar and lay reader alike.
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33 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Mike Kerezman Jr on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book because I was required to in College. It is painfully, obvious that it was written from a predetermined conclusion. The history of the NRA is especially vicious. The author chastises the NRA at several points for the NRA early support by Government by subsidies, use of Nat'l parks to train WWII soldiers how to shoot, etc. The author essential argument that anyone that has ever received support from Gov't has duty not to ever to oppose the government in anything. In the beginning he points out that this book he will not examine gun control polices in foreign countries, yet on several instances he cites them (Canada for instance) to make his point, but nevertheless totally neglects gun control failures such as England and Austrailia (See London Times 1/16/2000 for details on this) . He quickly glosses over concealed weapon laws citing statistics showimng their failure, when a number of policy studies have concluded the opposite that Concealed weapon laws do in fact reduce crime. If you want one-sided reading of gun control this is your best bet.
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More About the Author

Robert J. Spitzer is Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York, College at Cortland, where he has taught for over thirty years. He has also been a visiting professor at Cornell University for over twenty years. Spitzer is Series Editor for the book series "American Constitutionalism" for SUNY Press. He's received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship, and served as President of the Presidency Research Group, an international association of presidency scholars (affiliated with the American Political Science Association). He has testified before Congress on several occasions, and is often quoted and interviewed by American and international news outlets, and writes regularly for the Huffington Post. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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The Politics of Gun Control, 5th Edition
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