In 2016, there is no topic, in my opinion, that can get heated more so than that of gun control.
I mean, that’s only me speaking out of my own experiences, given that I am lucky enough to live in Canada, a country that has, albeit in my opinion lax, gun law and registration, but from what I can my neighbours to the south debate this heavily.
Given the fact that I have a fascination of America’s gun culture, Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge has been one of my most anticipated releases of the year.
Younge, a British journalist who lived in the US for four years before returning to London in 2015, begins his study in America’s gun obsession with a preface that reads, ” [This] is not a book about gun control; it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control” (xviii).
Interested to see how Another Day in the Death of America stood up to my expectations? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the liveslost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost.
This book was everything I hoped it would be.
Not only does it study 10 cases of gun violence directed towards young people in a respective manner, it also does not shy aware from the seriousness of a problem that seems unmanageable in the face of Americans.
When reading this book, I couldn’t help screaming out loud that things that Younge was touching on are points I make every time I argue in favour of gun control.
The first point that is weaved throughout the book is the argument of the Second Amendment.
For those who don’t know, or haven’t cared to know, the Second Amendment reads: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’
In Another Day in the Death of America, Younge argues:
“‘The world of the Second Amendment is unrecognizable,’ argues Michael Waldman in The Second Amendment: A Biography. ‘When the militias evaporated, so did the original meaning of the Second Amendment.'” (39)
“To defend this reality by way of the Second Amendment to the constitution has about the same relevance as seeking to understand the roots of modern terrorism – either to condemn or to condone it – through readings of the Koran. To base an argument on ancient texts is to effectively abdicate your responsibility to understand the present by offloading onto those who are now dead. It denies not only the possibility of new interpretations and solutions but the necessity for them.” (240)
While both of these make total sense to me, I would also like to put forth the argument for how many other parts of the US Constitution are ignored.
Among them include the 18th Amendment which prohibited the manufacturing and sale of alcohol (repealed by the 21st Amendment), the 8th Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment (see Guantanamo Bay), articles of the constitution where slavery was legal, and the First Amendment, or freedom of speech, which is infringed upon, in my opinion, every day.
I also think that if the Second Amendment is so important to the people of America, remember when that Amendment was written, in 1791, and only allow firearms that relate to that time period.
I also found when Younge argued America’s gun culture to other countries to be quite insightful.
“On the same day [as Sandy Hook], in China, Min Yongjun a mentally ill thirty-six-year-old, took a knife into Cheeping primary school in Henan province and stabbed twenty-three children and an elderly woman. No one died. Whatever one makes of the NRA axiom that ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’ it couldn’t be clearer that people can kill more people more efficiently with guns.”(42)
If this isn’t evidence that the ability to get a gun adds to the potential for casualties, I don’t know what is.
One passage of the book that made me cry out in frustration was Younge exploration into the National Riffle Association (NRA). While this theme is prevalent through out the book, this particular passage was the most poignant.
“At one time, guns, the primary source of death of black youth and second-leading source for all youth, were considered a public health concern. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) produced findings and reports on how to limit gun deaths in the same way that they produce reports on healthy eating and how to preset sudden infant death syndrome. They found, among other things, that the presence of guns in the home increased the likelihood of death rather than reduce it. The NRA was not pleased with this particular conclusion or the research in general.
‘Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.'” (107)
Younge’s narrative on how some choose to argue ‘This shouldn’t happen to anyone’ to ‘This shouldn’t happen to people like this’ was also thought provoking.(43)
I also found it interesting that when Younge talked to the families about gun culture and gun control, he got answers that were different then was expected.
“Most of the family members I spoke to evidently see the ubiquity of guns as a problem. But it does not necessarily follow that they see getting rid of guns as a viable solution. So child gun deaths, indeed any gun deaths, have become generally understood in the same ways as car accidents.” (75)
In all, I just think Younge was trying to make sense of America’s need for the owning of guns.
Earlier in the book he argues about how vehicle safety has changed with the inclusion of seatbelt and airbags, and to me that makes total sense. He then chooses to pose the following:
“If one child’s death is preventable, turn the proper question isn’t ‘why should we do this?’ But rather ‘Why shouldn’t we?’ It would be strange for they principle to apply to everything but guns.” (106)
By the end of this non-fiction stunner, with my emotions running raw, Younge was able to explain all of the feelings that I was struggling with, and that is what I am going to leave at the end of this review:
“But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for its youth and children – for my children – but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.” (239)
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.