Iain Overton is both an investigative journalist and the Director of Investigations with the Action Against Armed Violence charity. The gun is a subject he knows well. During his investigations he has been shot at by pirates. He’s seen bullet ridden bodies in Brazil, and spoke to homicide detectives in Honduras. He’s spent time in the company of mass murderers, and experienced first-hand the haunting sensation of shooting an animal and taking its life. He’s immersed himself in the controversial and horrific world of the gun, and seen the way it tears apart lives for both the living and the dead.
Often, though, it is not the most violent and gruesome tales in Gun Baby Gun that have the strongest ability to disturb. And that’s kind of the point of the book. The gun has become such a part of our lives and deaths, particularly in certain areas of the world, that we no longer react with huge amounts of shock or surprise when people, even children, are gunned down. So the most disturbing part of this book, then, comes when trying to explain how that came to be.
Many of you won’t be surprised to learn that America, and the National Rifle Association (NRA), has a huge part to play in this. We all know America loves guns. But if you want a true account of exactly how that love of guns has affected the rest of the world, then you should go out and buy this book immediately. Learning about the way the NRA responds to mass shootings in schools isn’t entirely surprising, but when you hear how others follow it’s enough to chill the bones. Discovering that eight US presidents have been NRA members is also not big news, but seeing how that high political involvement in such a damaging club has seeped into American culture is almost unbelievable. It’s worth reading this book just to read exactly how far the ‘Right to bear arms’ amendment has been twisted and torn. It’s terrifying.
This isn’t just a book about America, though. It’s a journey around the globe in the company of an arsenal any military would be proud of. In most places, we only see news that confirms the scary and terrifying nature of the firearm. But, perhaps most interestingly of all, we also visit places like Iceland; there, almost everybody has a gun but the murder rate is so low it’s barely worth discussing. Overton has gone to every corner to research his subject, and even if you won’t always be shocked by what he found, it will be hard not to be compelled.
Any Cop?: It’s a thoroughly good book. For a while it threatens to jump around the world of the gun so quickly that no conclusions will be met, but Overton is simply waiting for the final third to deliver his most damning indictments. It’s a fair book, though; one that considers its subject from all angles and gives evidence for both sides. But, in the end, it’s a book that tries to imagine a world without guns, after showing us how and why that is unlikely to ever happen.