Gun Politics in America

Historical and Modern Documents in Context

by Harry L. Wilson


During the Depression, FDR signed America's first federal gun control laws—with the help of the NRA.

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June 2016


Pages 791
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Current Events and Issues/Politics and Government
  Politics, Law, and Government/History
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Covering the history of firearms and gun control in America, this two-volume work presents original documents and helps readers understand these documents in relation to the social and political context in which they were written.

Offering the most complete collection of primary documents on the subject of guns and gun politics, this two-volume set will give readers a comprehensive, unbiased understanding of the complex and often-surprising evolution of gun ownership, gun culture, and gun politics in the United States. This fascinating history is examined through approximately 150 primary source documents from the Colonial era to the present day. Each section opens with an informative headnote that provides important context for understanding the social and political milieu in which the document was created.

The chronologically arranged set begins with Colonial laws regulating firearms, then proceeds through debates regarding the Second Amendment and laws that prohibited slaves from possessing guns. The use and regulation of firearms in the "Wild West" is explored, as is the era of Prohibition and organized crime in the 1930s. Later chapters cover the impact of 1960s-era racial and political violence and assassinations on gun laws and attitudes; the struggles over gun control and gun rights in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations; the increased clout of the NRA during the Bush administration; and the impact of events ranging from the Sandy Hook Massacre to the Supreme Court's District of Columbia v. Heller decision. Documents include laws, speeches, court decisions, Congressional debates, and more, giving college students and other interested readers the opportunity to evaluate each document—and each period—for themselves.


  • Includes coverage of gun control issues and politics from the Colonial era through the Sandy Hook shooting and its aftermath
  • Gives readers the benefit of reading each actual document, law, or court case and learning about the context in which it was written
  • Helps readers understand the cultural and political developments that brought America to its current stalemate over guns and gun policies
  • Presents the voices of activists, lawmakers, and ordinary Americans on both sides of the issue
Author Info

Harry L. Wilson is director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research and professor of political science at Roanoke College, Salem, VA. He is the author of Praeger's The Triumph of the Gun-Rights Argument: Why the Gun Control Debate is Over as well as of Guns, Gun Control, and Elections: The Politics and Policy of Firearms and is a member of the editorial board for Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, second edition. Wilson was a Fulbright Scholar in Pskov, Russia.



"Readers looking for basic historical material on this hot-button subject will find Wilson's work a superb primer. This well-organized set will provide readers and researchers at all levels with the most pertinent and basic historic documents on American gun control and ownership."Library Journal

"This set is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history and development of modern gun control, and is recommended for public or academic libraries."Booklist


2017 Outstanding Reference Source — RUSA

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