| BOSTON, March 21
BOSTON, March 21 Writer Dan Baum, a
self-described Jewish liberal Democrat and a gun enthusiast
since childhood, strapped a revolver to his side in 2009 and set
off on an 18-month, 15,000 mile (24,140 km)exploration of the
U.S. firearms culture.
His book, "Gun Guys: A Road Trip," was released this month
amid a gun-control debate rekindled by the Dec. 14 shootings at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Baum, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, says it was a
challenge to write for two polarized audiences: liberals and
fiercely protective gun lovers.
He spoke to Reuters about America's gun culture,
semi-automatic weapons and what he learned about himself from
writing the book.
Q: Are you a gun guy, or were you acting?
A: I'm a gun guy, and I live in a world of anti-gun people.
Being a liberal Democrat, my whole social world is among people
who dislike guns and dislike gun people.
Q: What should gun-control advocates know about America's
A: Guns are cool; they're fun; they're mechanically
gorgeous; they last forever.
But the really deep stuff is - we have a lot of freedom in
this country to own guns. Our gun laws bespeak a trust in the
people. And for the gun guys, this is really what America is
The ones who mostly buy guns are straight, white,
middle-aged men, rural, who have not finished college, and that
is a demographic that has seen their world collapse in all kinds
of ways. The NRA (National Rifle Association) comes along and
whispers in their ear, "Yeah, you're pissed, you know why?
Because the liberals want to take away your guns."
Gun guys derive tremendous pride from being able to manage
these incredibly dangerous devices safely, and then along come
these pointy-headed urban liberals who have never had any guns,
and they want to tell you that you can't be trusted with this
device. It is unimaginably offensive.
I'm not asking you to like these people. But I'm asking you
to listen to them. They are not just testosterone-poisoned death
Q: And what can the 100 million U.S. gun owners do to lower
A: Gun guys have to get serious about locking up their guns.
Most of the bad (stuff) that happens with guns in the United
States happens with guns that some law-abiding gun owner left
The problem is, gun guys do not see themselves as
responsible for gun violence. Gun guys have to accept, I have to
accept, that my guns affect you.
Q: You quote a prediction that President Obama would push
for gun control if re-elected.
A: I lost a $100 bet with a guy. I said there's no way that
the Democrats are going to make another serious run at gun
control. I think they're going to pay big time. Until the
gun-control push after Sandy Hook, we had a chance of taking the
House (of Representatives) ... Now we have no chance.
Q: Is it wrong to focus on controlling semi-automatic
rifles, particularly the AR-15.?
A: It's ignorant. The gun-control world is trying to pass
off the AR-15 as some kind of bizarre outlier of the gun world,
when in fact it's all anybody wants to shoot.
Q: What did you learn about yourself through this book?.
A: I am no less a Democrat, I am no less an Obama supporter.
But I really understand the conservative lament that we are
becoming a nation of weak, disrespected, over-managed
Q: You depicted conversations and scenes at which you were
not present. How did you come about your story-telling style.?
A: I ask a lot of questions. If I can go see the place where
it happened I do that. I try to talk to as many people who were
there as I can. It takes time to get that out of people. I'm
writing about ordinary people and I try very hard to portray
them the way they want to be portrayed.
Q: You've also written about the drug wars. How does the
gun-control effort compare?
A: The gun issue, like the drug issue, is used to avoid
talking about all kinds of stuff that's much more central. We
have gone out of our way to avoid having any sense of collective
care. If we have people wigging out and killing people, maybe
it's because we have created a society where everybody is
extremely alienated and extremely stressed. And it's getting
more so, because the one percent are getting an increased amount
of wealth, leaving less for the rest of us.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Paul Simao)