Title: Control: Exposing the Truth About Guns
Author: Glenn Beck
Publisher: Threshold/Simon and Schuster Audio
Release Date: April 2013
Length: 189 pages/4 hours 59 minutes
Genre: Adult nonfiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
I knew when I requested a book about gun control written by a conservative (Beck is a libertarian) that I would be in for a controversial ride. So let me give the following disclaimer up front: I consider myself a liberal. The older and more educated I get, the more liberal I become. Rachel Maddow is my hero. I have pretty strong opinions on many issues, and I’m learning/negotiating my feelings on others. Gun control is one of those issues. I’ve never owned a gun. Never touched a gun. No one in my immediate family owns a gun, and very few of my friends do. I also live in a very middle class, suburban world where nobody close to me has even been shot. I’ve never quite known where I fall on the gun control debate because it’s a world about which I know nothing.
However, a few notable instances of gun violence happened in the town where I grew up. My friend’s babysitter was murdered by her husband when I was elementary school. Another friend’s father was a policeman shot in the line of duty. A friend’s sister was expelled from school for bringing a gun to confront a bully. One of my own middle school students was also expelled for the same reason. And, perhaps biggest of all, my hometown of Christiansburg, Virginia was shocked by the Virginia Tech shooting, a campus that is 15 minutes from the house where I grew up. My initial feelings on gun control were quite mixed. I thought listening to Beck’s book might force me to realize an opinion on the topic.
For me, this was actually a useful book to read. Beck spends the first half of the book quoting actual quotes about gun control from the media and debunking the common misconceptions and myths in those statements. Beck is pretty serious about using actual research and statistics, and also climbing inside of those research studied to critique research methods, data interpretation, and sample sizes. Admittedly, I am quite aware that the media has a tendency to be incredibly biased on the issue. On both sides. So I did remain critical of both Beck’s critiques and his own data presented in other sections of the book. Beck admits that some of Part I of the book is dry and boring, but that the only way to fight misinformation is with research from actual research studies. I found the first part useful and informative in actually teaching me something about gun laws and the application of those laws.
The second half of the book just pissed me off. This is the half where Beck blames gun violence on video games and media violence. He charges families with strengthening family bonds and taking personal responsibility for their own actions and those of their children. Okay, Beck. I get it. I’m all for good parenting and whatnot. But it was this point where I become furious with Beck’s views. I think that parenting is only part of the equation. Our society needs to examine systemic injustices, racial issues, and power imbalances in addition to video game violence in considering how we can prevent gun violence. It’s great to have a gun to protect yourself, but it’s even better to never have to use it because no one ever has a desire to shoot you.
FINAL GRADE: C+ Beck is right that his writing drags a bit in parts, and I had major problems with the second half of the book. In the end, Beck made some fundamental points that are valid. While I wish we could live in a world where guns don’t exist, the fact of the matter is that we do. We can’t really peddle backwards on that fact, so we have to face it. I have to live in the world as it actually exists, not as I wish it did. It’s probably high time that I actually learn to use a gun safely and properly. I may never personally own one (though I may…and others in my household might), but it’s an important skill to have.
REQUIRED READING: I am a strong believer in reading things that piss me off. I can’t live in a world where I am just constantly surrounded by people and information that support my present views. I like a challenge, and I do try to go in open-minded. For that reason, I recommend this book to anyone with strong views on the gun control issue. Hate ‘em? Own one? Either way, Beck’s book may have something to teach you.
LIBRARY RECOMMENDATION: This might be good in a high school library, since Beck’s arguments do touch on both sides of the issue. I know kids in high school end up writing essays on topics such as this.
Bonus note: In researching Glenn Beck’s views, I learned that he has publicly stated that he doesn’t care if gay people get married. His libertarian beliefs come before his Mormon views. He thinks that what goes on between two consenting adults is none of his business and the government should stay out of it. I’m inclined to agree, and can respect his logical objectivity and consistent application of “individual freedom.”
Okay, so this is one of the most political posts I’ve ever posted! What are your two cents on reading books that make you uncomfortable?