Dana Loesch. Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America. Center Street, 2014. See here to purchase the book.
Dana Loesch is a conservative pundit and has served as a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. I first learned about her on account of a controversial comment she made after a mass shooting. When I listened to her on The Federalist Radio Hour, she impressed me because she seemed to know a lot about guns and the laws regulating them. Thus, I decided to read this book.
Here are some thoughts:
A. The book contained some of the usual talking points that I have heard before: mass shootings occur in places that have strict gun control; the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The book is helpful, though, because it backs up those arguments with statistics, showing that crime has gone down when more people are armed.
B. The book is especially informative about the history of the Second Amendment. Loesch draws from primary quotes and historical narrative to argue that the founders wanted people to be armed, both for their own safety and to protect freedom from a potentially tyrannous government. She also discusses how gun control has been used to disarm minorities. Many Second Amendment activists refer to the “black codes” of the Reconstruction era that disarmed free slaves, but Loesch’s discussion goes beyond merely mentioning that. She talks about how southern states prior to the Civil War sought to undermine the Second Amendment rights of free slaves by declaring that they were non-citizens. She narrates that free slaves during Reconstruction successfully protected themselves from white racists because they were armed, and this is what motivated the white establishment’s attempts to disarm them. She also discusses the laws that southern states passed to make firearm ownership difficult, if not impossible, for African-Americans, while permitting rich whites to own firearms. Then she talks about how gun control laws of the late 1960’s sought to suppress firearm ownership among African-Americans, due to riots and crime. Later in the book, she contends that controversial “stand your ground” laws have largely benefited African-Americans by enabling them to protect themselves.
C. Loesch’s discussion that I talk about in (B.) would have been stronger had she documented the sources for the primary quotes, though she does at least refer to specific sections of the Federalist Papers where framers support the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Her discussion on race could have been stronger, too, had she talked about the Mulford Act of the 1960’s, a California law that banned the carrying of loaded firearms in public. This law was designed to suppress the Black Panthers, and it was supported by the National Rifle Association and signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. Loesch is not necessarily dedicated to making Ronald Reagan look good, for she argues at one point in the book that, just because Ronald Reagan supported the Brady Bill, that does not make it right. Discussing the Mulford Act would have strengthened the book, however, by showing that attempts to disarm people has been done by the right, not just by the left. The left, of course, receives a heavy amount of criticism in this book.
D. Loesch makes a convincing case that people, especially women, can find guns to be an effective way to protect themselves. The cops do not always arrive on time, after all! Her arguments against certain gun control measures, however, were a bit lacking. Why would it be so wrong, for example, to require people to register their firearms? They are still allowed to keep their firearms, in that scenario. My impression is that one of Loesch’s problems is that gun control poses a major inconvenience on regions that especially value guns, for hunting and self-protection. Should a father have to go through a bunch of legal rigamarole to give a gun to his son?
E. A point that Loesch repeatedly makes is that there are laws that are already on the books. There are already background checks, even at gun shows. Certain criminals are not allowed to own guns. People already are prohibited to own machine guns. But Loesch also seems to think that there are too many laws that are on the books, and that keeping and bearing arms, even in public, is a God-given right. She says at one point, in addressing mass shootings, that freedom entails the risk that people will not necessarily use their freedom in the right way.
F. Loesch argues that the left wants to ban handguns, period. She refers to comments by Barack Obama early in his political career and by Rosie O’Donnell to that effect, and she argues that Michael Bloomberg essentially believes that. In a speech about gun control that President Obama gave on January 5, 2016, however, Obama denies that he supports banning all guns. Rather, he seeks to strengthen background checks, since there are gun purchases that fall through the cracks. This book was published in 2014, but it could have been stronger had Loesch argued more against what the left considers to be “common sense” gun laws.
G. An argument that Loesch repeatedly makes is that the left does not understand guns. The AR-15, for instance, is not a machine gun but fires one bullet at a time, like a lot of guns do. “Assault weapons” are not machine guns, either, but merely look like machine guns. I cannot get into a debate with Loesch about guns, since I know so little about them. I doubt, though, that she has fully engaged what the left actually says about the types of guns that it wants to ban. The guns that they want to ban may be more potent than Loesch implies. According to a June 16, 2016 NBC news article by Tony Dokoupil, the AR-15 is controversial on account of its “quick reload capabilities,” and the family of Eugene Stoner, the inventor of the AR-15, deny that Stoner intended the gun for civilian use.
H. Loesch argues that murder rates, even murder by guns, are higher in countries and states that have strict gun control. She argues that criminals are not going to obey gun laws, anyway, for they are criminals. Still, a question that should be addressed is where these guns are coming from in countries and states that have strict gun control. Loesch says the “black market,” but where is the black market getting those guns? From places with loose gun control laws? From underground manufacture?
I. Loesch recoils from the idea that she, an experienced gun user, would have to take a beginner’s class on guns in order to get a concealed-carry permit. She makes a valid point. There are people who have grown up with guns, and it would be condescending to treat them as little kids. At the same time, I wonder if there is a way to get around that problem. Perhaps waive the requirement that people take a class, if they can take a test or demonstrate that they already know the material.
J. Loesch at many points seems to try to be like Ann Coulter, using acerbic wit to criticize liberals. Unlike Coulter’s wit, however, Loesh’s falls flat.
I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest.