Monday, January 25, 2016

NONFICTION MONDAY: Tommy, the Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal


John Taliaferro Thompson had a mission: to develop a lightweight, fast-firing weapon that would help Americans win on the battlefield. His Thompson submachine gun could deliver a hundred bullets in a matter of seconds—but didn't find a market in the U.S. military. Instead, the Tommy gun became the weapon of choice for a generation of bootleggers and bank-robbing outlaws, and became a deadly American icon. Following a bloody decade—and eighty years before the mass shootings of our own time—Congress moved to take this weapon off the streets, igniting a national debate about gun control. Critically-acclaimed author Karen Blumenthal tells the fascinating story of this famous and deadly weapon—of the lives it changed, the debate it sparked, and the unprecedented response it inspired.


While I am not a big fan of guns, I have enjoyed Blumenthal's other works, so I decided to go ahead and read this one.  I found the history of the Tommy gun rather fascinating and rather sad at the same time.  Guns of course are just tools, but they are tools with only one purpose: to kill.  And reading this made that very clear.  While Thompson's original intentions when he started working on the gun were good, his actions when the gun went on sale suggest that supporting his business was more important than standing for what he claimed to believe.  In today's age of wide-spread gun control laws with the possibility of more lurking around the corner, it was rather appalling to read about how easy it was for people to get their hands on this semi-automatic weapon. People seemed to get away with a lot at the time, especially with the widespread corruption.  This is as much a story about the development of laws as it is a history of a gun.  Brief histories of some well-known gangsters/criminals who used Tommy guns are also included (Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, Al Capone, etc.).  A fascinating look at a time quite different than our own but that had a huge impact on where we are now in terms of law and order and what is acceptable and what isn't. People have strong opinions when it comes to guns.

1 comment:

  1. This book set by my bedside for weeks. I only ever read the first few pages, and I hadn't been able to figure out why. I think you described exactly what I was feeling--that sadness about all the damage guns have brought.


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