Gun Show Nation

Gun Culture and American Democracy

A stunning new exposé of the roots of American gun culture

“Tenaciously expos[es] the role guns play for many Americans in their national and political identity.” —Publishers Weekly

On progressive websites and in newspaper columns Gun Show Nation has become part of a lively debate on guns and democracy in America. “Burbick gets it,” Buzzflash says, “she cuts through to the heart of the psychology of guns.”

Cultural historian, critic, and gun owner Joan Burbick examines the lethal politics of gun ownership, answering that perennial question about America culture: Why are Americans so obsessed with guns? Looking at the nation from the floor of a gun show, Burbick uncovers a powerful conservative ideology that attempts to place gun ownership at the center of our democracy. “Careful in her conclusions, lively in her writing” (Booklist), her analysis takes us from the history of the NRA, through the gun lobby’s engagement with domestic politics that reached its high-water mark during the Reagan era, to the movement’s contemporary hostility to the United Nations.

The most thorough account yet of the beliefs that millions of ordinary Americans hold about guns, Gun Show Nation delves into the political machinations that have shaped the gun debate in America and draws fascinating conclusions about gun culture and national identity.


“A moral, wise, witty, and, dare I say it, disarming book . . . a must-read for anybody who wants to learn more about the dangerous link between nationalism and violence.”
—Sherman Alexie, author of Indian Killer
“A brilliant and insightful reading of America’s gun culture. Rooted in the history of social violence, [it] illuminates the conflict between ‘gun rights’ and civil rights in American democracy.”
—Richard Slotkin, author of Gunfighter Nation
Gun Show Nation provides an indispensable ethnographic guide to America’s obsession with guns. Anyone interested in understanding the future of gun control and the remarkable resiliency of gun rights in American culture will need to grapple with Burbick’s richly nuanced study of gun shows.”
—Saul Cornell, author of A Well-Regulated Militia

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