As Gun Issue Heats Up, Book Attacks 'Bumper Sticker' Logic of Gun Rights Movement

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As Gun Issue Heats Up, Book Attacks 'Bumper Sticker' Logic of Gun Rights Movement

WASHINGTON - As coffee giant Starbucks finds itself mired in controversy over guns in its stores; “gun rights” activists prepare to converge on Washington, D.C. on April 19 in an atmosphere poisoned by threats of rightwing violence; and the U.S. Supreme Court considers its second landmark Second Amendment case in two years, one of the nation’s leading gun control advocates calls for a new reality-based discussion of guns and violence that rejects the “bumper sticker logic” of the gun lobby. 

In Lethal Logic:  Exploding the Myths that Paralyze American Gun Policy (Potomac Books 2009), Dennis Henigan, Vice President for Law and Policy at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, systematically analyzes and dismantles the simple, effective slogans that the disciplined messaging of the gun lobby has burned into the consciousness of the American people.  Henigan dissects the superficial appeal of such catch-phrases as  “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people,” “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” “An armed society is a polite society,” and other simplistic themes that have come to dominate the perennial debate over the role of guns in American society.  The National Rifle Association, calling Henigan the “most influential thinker” in the gun control movement, wrote that Lethal Logic “presents what will likely be the key talking points for gun control advocates . . . in the coming months and years.” 

The Starbucks controversy illustrates the growing intensity of the gun debate and the timeliness of Lethal Logic.  Invoking “bumper sticker logic” at every turn, members of the growing “open carry” movement of radical Second Amendment advocates have been gathering in restaurants and coffee shops across the nation, with highly-visible pistols and revolvers hanging from their hips.   

Unlike other retail chains targeted by the “open carriers,” like California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Coffee & Tea, that reacted by announcing a “no guns” policy, Starbucks continues to allow the carrying of guns into its stores.  The Starbucks controversy has received national media coverage, with stories on CBS Evening News, National Public Radio, the New York Times and the Colbert Report, as well as a series in the Doonesbury comic strip. 

As the Starbucks gun policy was becoming national news, the U.S. Supreme Court heard its second landmark Second Amendment case in two years – McDonald v. City of Chicago.  In McDonald, the Court will decide whether the new Second Amendment right to have a gun in the home – recognized in the Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller – applies to state and local gun laws like Chicago’s current handgun ban.  If the Court decides that the Second Amendment right constrains state and local gun laws, it could open the floodgates to hundreds of new legal challenges to state and local gun laws across the country by gun lobby lawyers and criminal defendants. 

Lethal Logic is the first book to comprehensively discuss the implications of the Heller ruling for federal, state and local gun laws.  It also addresses the National Rifle Association’s long-held view that the core purpose of the Second Amendment is to enable an armed citizenry to resist government tyranny – a view echoed today by the rhetoric of rightwing extremists who are threatening violence against those who supported healthcare reform.

Dennis Henigan recently appeared on Fox News discussing the McDonald case and on Laura Ingraham’s radio show discussing the Starbucks issue, and has been quoted on the McDonald case in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor.  His article on the McDonald case – “The Most Dangerous Right” -- recently appeared in the National Law Journal.  Henigan also is a regular blogger on Huffington Post.

Lethal Logic has been discussed in articles by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert and New York Times editorial writer Dorothy Samuels.  In giving it “4 of 5 stars”, Business Week said “Henigan’s insights . . . are truly eye-opening.”

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The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative and grassroots affiliate, the Brady Campaign and its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence.

We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

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