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Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie Hardcover – 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cramer, an adjunct lecturer in history at Boise State University and George Fox University, took on Michael Bellesiles even before his book Arming America was discredited, and now goes further to prove wrong Bellesiles's claim that guns were uncommon in early America. Cramer finds that guns "were the norm" in that period, people relied on guns to hunt, and gun ownership was key to the success of colonial militias. His most intriguing argument is that, as they became "tied to defending political rights," guns also became a symbol of citizenship. Cramer draws on many primary sources, from newspaper accounts to probate records, and compiles impressive data supporting his case. Still, he misses many opportunities for analysis and interpretation. For example, he finds that it was "not terribly unusual" for free women to own guns, but offers no nuanced discussion of what said gun ownership tells us about gender roles. His attack on academia—which, in Cramer's view, has been blinded by ideology and excludes political conservatives—distracts from his central theme and will only alienate pro–gun-control readers, leaving him with an equally narrow, if opposite, readership. (Feb. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Clayton E. Cramer has an MA in History from Sonoma State University, and has taught history at Boise State University and George Fox University (Boise branch). A writer whose work has been published in the San Jose Mercury News, National Review, and the American Rifleman, he has published several academic books on history and firearms, including For the Defense of Themselves and the State and Black Demographic Data, 1790-1860. He writes a monthly column for Shotgun News (circ. 95,000).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson; First Edition edition (2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595550690
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595550699
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,232,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Thomas Jefferson noted (I believe adroitly) that "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

Michael A. Bellesiles "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" (2000), argued that over the course of United States history guns were substantially rarer, and more rigorously controlled, than popular culture (and particularly gun-rights advocates) want us to think. For pandering to the vast, far-left-leaning communications/education machine, he was copiously honored and praised for his work; he was even awarded the Bancroft Prize, America's highest award for a history book!

Just two years later, Bellesiles' scholarship had been exposed as a sham. This resulted in the loss of his professorship at Emory University. His Bancroft was withdrawn and his publisher removed his book from circulation.

More than anyone else, the person who made this all possible was Clayton Cramer. In "Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie," Cramer debunks an era of anti-gun myths. He also guides his readers on a survey of surprising history. Cramer truly lays the foundation of America's gun culture bare--and brilliantly supports his position that this aspect of America has contributed mightily to the greatness of the nation.

Cramer's book challenges numerous popular conceptions, its scholarship is extremely solid--and its subject is increasingly relevant.
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Format: Hardcover
Review of Book that Appeared in the March 11, 2007 New York Post

Did you know that in New York City, through 1969 virtually all the public high schools had riflery teams?

Thousands of students carried their rifles on subways, buses and streets on their way to school, when they went to practice in the afternoon and on their way home. And until 1963, all commercial pilots were required to carry guns and were allowed to carry guns until 1987.

Gun laws have certainly changed over time.

Today towns such as Kennesaw, Ga., Greenfeld, Idaho and Geuda Springs, Kan., which all require residents to own guns, are considered the oddity. But Clayton Cramer's terrific new book, "Armed America," shows that, in fact, gun ownership has been deeply woven into this country's since the colonial period.

Cramer shows that guns aren't inherently the problem. In our day, criminals may have replaced Indians as a danger facing most citizens, but it may also shock many readers to learn how comfortable Americans once were with their guns.

In colonial times, as Cramer argues, people didn't own guns just for hunting. Numerous laws mandated that people have guns for personal defense and defense of the community, at home, while traveling and even in church.

Heads of households, whether men or women, were required to have a gun at home and fines of up to a month's wages were imposed on those who failed to meet this requirement.

In some states such as Maryland, fines were paid directly to inspectors so that authorities had a strong incentive to check. The only people exempt from these rules were Quakers, some indentured servants, or, in the South, blacks.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cramer writes a focused work, detailing the presence and use of firearms in the colonial, revolutionary and early Republic periods of American history. He compiles a wealth of specific examples based on primary sources like wills, newspapers, legislation, travel books, etc. He demonstrates a deep knowledge of the topic and the sources, showing the range and breadth of early American experience with firearms for use in personal defense and in a military context. Some of the material can be dry, and this book is not one for those looking for a rollicking story - it's a history, of the kind useful for professionals or amateurs with a specific, rather than a general interest in the topic. Occasionally Cramer restates the obvious - of course, given the inability of some of our countries "best" historical scholars on the Bancroft Committee to pick up on the obvious inconsistencies between Bellesiles' writing in Arming America and the original records, he should be forgiven. Armed America should be seen as a refutation of Bellesiles and his ilk - as the academic frauds that they have been demonstrated to be. After reading Armed America you will be convinced that Cramer had the right of it.

4 stars - it's a solid work, and well executed.
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Format: Hardcover
A few years ago Michael Bellsiles wrote a book claiming that early Americans didn't own guns, didn't have them, and that historical documentation proved it. He was widely discredited even by many of his anti-gun peers when it was found that much of his research was false or totally inaccurate.

Clayton Cramer spent five years researching the same records Bellesiles "used" and found totally opposite results, guns were very common all over the colonies (the book covers a period from the 1600's to the 1840's). Divided into 3 sections, Colonial America, the Revolutionary war, and the early Republic- Cramer gives exhaustive detail on what America was really like. The author is even careful to note that sometimes a modern reader can't be sure just what some statements from the past meant.
There are a lot of footnotes (unfortunately he gives no indication of just how hard it is for the average person to get at the original documents to read them, he does mention that Bellesiles usually reported just the opposite of what sommething actually said in print.) and a 12 page bibliography to back up his statements.

My worst problem with the book was that the few included photographs are too dark, hard to get any detail from them. It's a good fascinating book that I don't regret owning, it just won't convince anyone who doesn't believe it is true.
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