Gun Baby Gun by Iain Overton - book review: Plenty of ammunition

A detailed analysis of the relationship between humans and guns with a blend of statistics, reportage, and personal insight

Doug Johnstone
Friday 08 May 2015 13:50
Comments
Gun lore: A billion firearms, half a million deaths
Gun lore: A billion firearms, half a million deaths

The facts in this riveting book are enough to make your jaw drop.

There are over a billion guns in the world today. Last year, 12 billion bullets were produced. Half a million people are killed by guns each year. And that’s just for starters.

Iain Overton is well placed to examine the role of guns in today’s society. Currently Director of Investigations for Action on Armed Violence, he was formerly a well-respected investigative reporter, and he brings to this book a balance and veracity that make it a startling and often depressing read.

After some strangely florid opening passages, Overton settles into a groove, looking at all angles of the relationship between humans and guns with a blend of statistics, reportage, and personal insight. Most importantly, he does so without judgement, refusing to descend into anti-gun rhetoric, something he might well have done given the shocking revelations throughout.

Gun Baby Gun by Iain Overton

The book is separated into sections that each examines a different facet of gun culture, from the victims of crime and suicide all the way to lobbyists and manufacturers who seem to have a stranglehold on international policy. Along the way he visits effectively lawless states including Honduras and El Salvador, war zones such as Palestine and Iraq, gun shows in Vegas, shooting clubs in Iceland, and military fairs in New York.

He looks at police use of firearms, and examines the insidious corruption that links police forces, governments, paramilitary organisations, smugglers, and manufacturers to create areas of the planet where it seems impossible for people to escape the carnage that guns create.

Most poignant are visits to Utoya in Norway and Sandy Hook in the United States, both sites of terrible mass shootings by lone gunmen. Overton is especially good here at conveying the impenetrable loss, hurt, and confusion of such incidents, and it’s to his credit that he never attempts to come up with glib answers.

It’s that methodical journalistic feel that lends Gun Baby Gun its authority. Overton admits at one point that he used to run a small shooting club. He also discusses being held up at gunpoint three times. He goes hunting for game in South Africa, but elsewhere takes the National Rifle Association to task for their extreme pro-gun lobbying.

But it’s the pieces of reportage that live longest in the memory. American tourists in an Israeli camp on the Palestinian West Bank shooting at targets with Arabs printed on them. The mix of dignity and shame amongst a group of former child soldiers in Liberia. The body bags piled outside a morgue in Honduras. This book is more than just facts, it’s insight and revelation on a very human level.

Canongate £18.99

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in