5 Books that Shape Our Thoughts on Guns
Nonfiction November - Week 4

For years I’ve seen the guns every time I visit. They’ve been in plain sight. They’re neatly stacked against the fireplace brick.

I’ve also seen some of the dead animals, the stuffed trophies mounted above the hearth. I’ve eaten from fresh kills of doves, quail, geese, and deer.

I know the guns I see aren’t loaded. Definitely not. The family is ultra cautious with firearms. They abide by all the rules, purchase the appropriate hunting licenses every year, and maintain flawless records of gun safety.

Yet why do I feel uneasy seeing the old firearms now, when I hadn’t felt uneasy before?

Perhaps because our culture has changed.

While firearms have always been used to kill people in wars, in personal arguments, and in moments of despair, they weren’t always used to kill bystanders in grocery stores, in movie theaters, and in elementary schools.

In many states like my own Alabama, you can see guns on hips when you’re eating a chicken biscuit at Hardees, or peeking out of your girlfriend’s purse when you’re riding together in her car. But having guns everywhere isn’t making us safer. Twenty years of data have proven that guns in the hands of civilians have not reduced targeted violence. In only a very few incidents has an armed civilian successfully stopped a shooter.

I also see guns in my own house. My husband learned to hunt with his father and grandfathers and uncles. It’s a family tradition. He’s never had to even buy one himself. They’re passed down through the generations as family heirlooms.

Our firearms stay locked away, safely secured. I don’t have to worry about a child accidentally finding one, or about guests playing with one.

But not every home is so secure. Not every child is blocked from walking around with a loaded gun. Actually, 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in a household with at least one loaded, unlocked gun.

As I read more books about guns this year, it’s disturbing.

Below are five books I recommend from what I’ve read this year, both as a gun owner AND as an advocate for more reasonable gun laws. I encourage you to get more educated about gun use and gun laws, too, whether from books, advocacy groups, conversations, or your own research.

Then do what you can to encourage responsible gun ownership and legislation. Not to take away all guns from all people. But to use common sense to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible people or people in a mental health crisis, just like we do with cars, with medicines, etc.

Regardless of where you stand politically, aren’t we all on the same side of wanting fewer deaths from gun violence? Fewer suicides? Fewer domestic abuse cases?

Have conversations. Learn facts. Promote better laws. Vote for responsible representatives. Buy a gun safe. Join or donate to organizations doing the work.

And maybe read some books, too.

1. Standing Our Ground
The Triumph of Faith Over Gun Violence: A Mother’s Story
by Lucy McBath

Standing Our Ground

This story by Lucy McBath is about her 17-year-old son Jordan who was shot dead at a gas station by a man who thought Jordan was playing music too loud on his car stereo.

2. Find the Helpers
What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope
by Fred Guttenberg

Find the Helpers

When Fred Guttenberg heard there was an active shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, he didn’t know his precious 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of the victims, changing his own life forever.

3. How to Talk About Guns with Anyone
by Katherine Schweit

How to Talk About Guns with Anyone

Educate yourself with this easy-to-follow book about all things related to firearms: its history, court decisions, current legislation, the Second Amendment, and all types of weapons.

4. The Violence Inside Us
A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy
by Chris Murphy

The Violence Inside Us

Learn about the origin of violence in the United States, and the path it has traveled through the years, plus what we can do now to save lives.

5. Fight like a Mother
How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World
by Shannon Watts

Fight LIke a Mother

Shannon Watts describes why and how she started Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement to protect people from gun violence (loosely modeled on MADD, Moms Against Drunk Driving) after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

It’s not impossible to change our attitudes, our cultural divisions, and our gun laws.

Together, all our individual things can add up to a better and safer world for everyone.

It’s Week 4 of Nonfiction November. We’re linking our posts with Rebekah at She Seeks Nonfiction about Worldview Shapers, books that change the way we see the world.

Do you know someone who has died from gun violence? Do you have a book you’d recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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41 thoughts on “5 Books that Shape Our Thoughts on Guns
Nonfiction November - Week 4

  1. Lisa of Hopewell

    What a good, timely topic. I wish people would read these. My grandfather hunted, my Dad didn’t like it. But where I live today guns are everywhere–like Alabama. I taught my kids “if you go to a friend’s and a gun is lying around LEAVE…just leave” Sad that we had to have that lesson.
    It’s the staggering number of illegal guns that worries me most.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love the advice you give your kids. And I agree that it’s sad for it to be necessary. I think it’s also sad yet encouraging when moms ask other moms if they have unsecured guns in their home before they allow their kids to go there to play. I hope one day this will be different…

  2. Donna Connolly

    Hi, Lisa – Thank you for addressing this very important topic – and for the book recommendation. “Twenty years of data have proven that guns in the hands of civilians have not reduced targeted violence.” Yet there are more and more guns in the hands of civilians. I have no words.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know; it is hard to comprehend the complicated culture that we’ve landed in surrounding guns. Sigh. Often I feel like we’re continuing to barrel forward in the wrong direction, but there are small pockets where good legislation is passing and is making a difference.

  3. Rebekah Kohlhepp

    Thanks for these. Reducing gun deaths shouldn’t be a partisan issue! And the Second Amendment was made for a “well-regulated militia” in the 1700s when people were using muskets, not white supremacists with automatic rifles in a grocery store! Adding a couple of these to my list for sure.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you 100%, Rebekah. The founding fathers couldn’t have begun to imagine how guns would transform by 2023. Their intent and our practices seem far, far apart.

  4. Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle

    The title “The Violence Inside Us” is what draws me most. Having felt violent impulses inside myself, though thankfully with no access to firearms, I wonder about the human beings who are driven to such desperate action. The means for killing so many people out of our inner violence should be controlled and not so readily available, but it’s the impulse I really wonder about. How do we address that? So thanks for alerting me to that one, I’ll definitely check it out.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Lory. We all have violent tendencies inside ourselves. Under the wrong circumstances and in the wrong places, no one is totally exempt from acting uncharacteristically violent. So we’re wise to consider our emotional regulation and other factors that keep us in check. This book addresses specifically American’s tendency toward violence and the things that have brought us to this point. It was really good.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      lol. This definitely counts as a difficult topic, too; you’re right, Harry. By its nature it is difficult, but I hate that it’s also become controversial and polarizing in our current culture.

  5. Marianne @ Let's Read

    You wrote on my post: a challenging topic. How brave of you to tackle it!
    I think the same goes for you. I am sure you are a lot braver tackling that problem than I did with mine. This is for all of us. I am not American but I am often shocked about the view some people have about guns. Your recommendations all sound great. Thanks for that.

    And thank you for visiting my Worldview Shapers post.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Marianne. I understand your shock about how many Americans view guns. It’s difficult to grasp why we aren’t doing more to prevent gun violence over here. 🙁 We have other countries we can look to for positive examples, yet we’re not.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ditto. I keep hoping that one day we’ll realize in America that what we’re doing regarding our gun culture is not working for our safety but is working against it. In the meantime, more and more people become victims of gun violence. Sigh.

  6. Lydia C. Lee

    Interesting post. I have to say your description of people with guns in the restaurant or with guns peeking out of their purse wreally puts me off visiting America, which is ironic as I’ve been to countries where they have stickers on the bank saying you have to leave your guns outside, and so there must be people walking around with guns but I was unaware of it….Good for you for raising awareness. We got rid of all our guns after a mass shooting, using his recently deceased grandmother’s guns apparently. #WeekendCoffeeShare

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It is chilling to wonder how many people may be carrying guns in any given space in America that we aren’t aware of. I so wish that America would follow in the footsteps of other countries who have come closer to solving the gun crisis.

  7. Debbie Harris

    Hi Lisa, I agree with Lydia in her comment and think I would feel very uncomfortable sitting near people with guns on their hips while eating a burger. Australia made some hard decisions many years ago about gun laws and ownership and I’m happy with that. Well done on bringing this topic up and for sharing your position as a gun owner but also someone who wants to see laws changed in your country. The list of books is a good way of sharing different viewpoints #weekendcoffeeshare

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your encouragement, Debbie. America’s legislature could learn so much from how Australia has worked to solve the gun problem. Yet we keep clinging to our fallacies that more and more people need guns instead of less and less…

  8. Janet Alcorn

    One of my closest friends was paralyzed because a gun was too conveniently located during an argument. It’s so easy to do so much damage so quickly with a firearm–and we humans are emotional, impulsive creatures.

    Thanks for a reasonable take on this topic.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I am so sorry that happened to your friend, Janet. 🙁 You’re exactly right that firearms can do SO much damage, and often permanent and/or fatal, from a brief explosion of emotion. I don’t promote violence of any kind, but at least fist fights were a lot less lethal back in the day before everyone carried a gun.

  9. Leslie

    What a great topic. I also learned a lot from the books Parkland and When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough. I recently started following and attended a few Moms Demand Action activities. Being in Texas, this is a huge issue and concern. One of the craziest things was that when my daughter (then ~16) took dual credit classes as a high school student at the community college, she was required by the state to view a training on concealed carry on campus and how that differed from open carry. Literally the training said that if they saw another student’s gun showing, they should politely tell them their gun was showing and that it was supposed to be concealed. I still can’t believe that was the guidance. Obviously I told her not to do that. Anyway, it is an overwhelming concern and so important; thank you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important topic, Leslie. I’m adding When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough to my tbr list right now. Good for you in joining Moms Demand Action. I participate too in the local group where I live in Alabama. I think Texas and Alabama have a lot in common regarding our gun cultures, unfortunately. The advice given to your daughter was so dangerous. Sigh.

  10. Kim Carberry

    What an interesting topic.
    I don’t think I have ever seen a gun, unless it was on the TV. Here in England there are strict laws and not many people have guns so it all seems a bit alien to me.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Wow, it’s amazing how different cultures can be. I’m glad that England has better laws. I wish this topic was more alien to me, too. I’m encouraged by your experience that it IS possible to live without so many people having guns on them.

  11. Rowena Curtin

    Hi Lisa,
    I was intrigued to read your post and it was very well put together. I’m Australian and I also don’t live in a rural area where guns might be around. Where I live, guns are scarce and having a gun isn’t like having a box of cereal in the cupboard or a tissue in your handbag. I really commend you for speaking up about the prevalence of guns in America and being American you are well positioned to speak out and ask the hard questions from an informed point of view. I personally can’t understand why America hasn’t tackled its gun problem and wonder how many more children will need to die before restrictions tighten. I know we Australians can sound a bit cocky when we talk about how our gun laws tightened after one mass shooting – the Port Arthur Massacre back in 1996. Our then Prime Minister, John Howard, had already spoken about trying to reign in guns prior to the massacre, and it drove him into action. He’s never been a man who has sought public popularity and is pretty conservative and old school but a man of integrity and I feel you can trust him. He was also supported by a man who lost his wife and two daughters in the massacre. Here’s a link to an article about how the Port Arthur Massacre changed Australia’s gun laws: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/15/it-took-one-massacre-how-australia-made-gun-control-happen-after-port-arthur
    I hope this offers encouragement that change is possible and I’ve always been a big believer in people power and what can be done when people come together for good.
    Best wishes,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your encouraging support, Rowena. It’s positive to see that other countries can and DO make changes that work regarding gun safety! I don’t know how many more people will have to die in America before real change can finally come. 🙁 Thanks for including the link to the article about Australia’s gun laws. I look forward to reading it!

  12. Molly

    You are so much braver than I am to read a number of these books. I have added How to Talk About Guns with Anyone. I have long studied the history and legality of the second amendment and I need to calm the rage I feel about this topic down a bit before I talk about it with others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, the topic of guns does bring out high emotions for so many of us; I am that way too. I need to read more about the history and legality of the second amendment myself. The book How to Talk About Guns does address it some, along with many other things. It was a very helpful resource to me and I hope it will be for you too. Thanks for sharing here, Molly!

  13. Kirstin

    You wrote this very well. You gave some good food for thought. I too grew up around guns (my dad was a hunter). I do feel like there needs to be some better regulations, though I also feel like someone who wants to get their hands on a gun for purposes of violence is going to do so. I’ll have to look into some of those books.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Growing up around guns didn’t feel weird to me either. I think when we’re around people who hunt, we don’t think as much about it. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention “better regulations.” It’s not that all the guns should disappear; we just need closer scrutiny on who/what/how available they are, just like we have regulations on who can drive a car, etc. You’re right that bad guys can get guns if they really want to. I hope one day we can make it harder to do than it currently is. Thanks, Kirstin!

  14. Paula

    I’m glad you’re talking about this topic. I think the thing is not banning guns from everyone is not the answer. You talked about common sense, that’s a big key as well as legislation, correct learning and the like. I grew up in a hunting family and now that I’m reflecting on this I don’t ever remember even seeing where the guns were kept by any of my family members. They weren’t in sight. I appreciate your advocation Lisa.
    Thanks so much for sharing this with Sweet Tea & Friends this month dear friend.

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