The Politics of Gun Control  book cover
8th Edition

The Politics of Gun Control

ISBN 9780367502843
Published October 14, 2020 by Routledge
300 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The new edition of this classic text covers the latest developments in American gun policy including the most recent shooting incidents that persist in plaguing the American landscape. Continuing a multi-decade trend, crime generally remains low throughout the US, but mass shootings have increased in both number and lethality, stoking greater support for gun laws among the public. Two seismic political events are highlighted in the eighth edition. The first is the ascendance of the gun safety movement, culminating in numerous electoral victories for gun law supporters in 2018 congressional and state races around the country. This outcome, which contributed to the Democrats’ capture of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2008, also demonstrates that support for stronger gun laws could be a winning issue for proponents in 2020 and beyond. The second political development featured is the financial, political, and legal crises that beset the nation’s oldest and most powerful gun group, the National Rifle Association. These crises are sufficiently grave that they may pose an existential threat to the organization’s traditional dominance in the realm of gun politics.

Author Robert J. Spitzer has long been a recognized authority on gun control and gun policy. His even-handed treatment of the issue--as both a member of the NRA and the Brady Center--continues to compel national and international interest, including appearances on major media such as the PBS NewsHour. The eighth edition of The Politics of Gun Control provides the reader with up-to-date data and coverage of gun ownership, gun deaths, school shootings, border patrols and new topics including universal background checks, limits on large capacity ammunition magazines, and "red flag" laws.

New to the Eighth Edition

  • Covers the ascendance of the Second Amendment sanctuary and gun safety movements, resulting from heinous shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida.
  • Tracks the financial, political, and legal crises that threaten the dominance of the National Rifle Association.
  • Examines new policy measures including universal background checks, limits on large capacity ammunition magazines, the bump stock controversy, and "red flag" laws, among others.

Table of Contents



New to This Edition


About the Author


  1. Policy Definition and Gun Control
  2. Regulation, Public Order, and Public Policy

    Guns and Regulation

    The Gun Controversy

    The Gun Culture

    Policy Gridlock

    Social Regulatory Policy Analysis

  3. The Second Amendment: Meaning, Intent,
  4. Interpretation, and Consequences

    Historic Roots

    The Constitution

    The Bill of Rights

    The Militia Transformed

    Supreme Court Rulings

    Other Court Rulings

    Bad History Makes Bad Law


  5. The Criminological Consequences of Guns
  6. America and Violence

    Choice of Weapons

    Homicide and Malicious Injury




    Guns and School Violence

    Gun Carrying on College Campuses?

    "Stand Your Ground" Laws: Extending the "Castle Doctrine" to America’s Streets


  7. Political Fury: Gun Politics

Single-Issue Gun Groups: The NRA

Explaining the NRA’s Effectiveness

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Million Mom March

New Gun Control Groups Enter the Fray

The Gun Control Movement’s Strategic Blunders

The Political Balance and the Invincibility Myth

Public Opinion

Political Parties and Guns




5. Institutions, Policymaking, and Guns

Early Legislative Efforts

The Gun Control Act of 1968

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986

The Tide Turns: The Assault-Weapons Ban

The Brady Bill

The Post-Columbine Reaction

Lawsuit Protection for Gun Manufacturers

Sandy Hook

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Conclusion: Furious Politics, Marginal Policy

6. Gun Policy: A New Framework

Federalism: The Great Regulation Dilemma

Gun Policy Alternatives

The Barriers to Gun Control

The Security Dilemma

The Security Dilemma and the Gun Debate

Nonproliferation and Arms Control


View More



Robert J. Spitzer is Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at the State University of New York College at Cortland. He served on the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, and from 2001 to 2003, was president of the Presidency Research Group of the American Political Science Association.


Praise for the Eighth Edition

The latest edition of Robert Spitzer’s classic The Politics of Gun Control continues to provide an authoritative assessment of the many issues surrounding guns in America, and offers new commentary on the growing empirical literature as well as on some of the latest wrenching spasms of gun violence that continue to plague this country.  Most Americans have strong views on guns without having an equally strong understanding of the complex issues raised by the increasingly more deadly arsenal of weaponry in the hands of American civilians.  Better laws and policies would be in place if more voters would read and learn from Spitzer’s measured and insightful work.

--John Donahue, Stanford Law School

Robert Spitzer deftly distills decades of firearm policy-making, court decisions, and interest-group mobilization into one readable volume. As a veteran observer of the great gun debate, Spitzer brings an expert knowledge and historical view that few other scholars can rival. This updated edition is a must-have for those interested not only in the past but also in the future of gun politics in the United States.

--Jacob D. Charles, Duke University School of Law

Praise for Previous Editions

First published in 1995 and frequently updated, Robert Spitzer’s excellent work is my go-to book for gun control. It is the single best primer available on gun control, and this new edition should be first on any list of readings on the topic. Anyone with an interest in firearms—for whatever reason—must read this book.

--Charles W. Smith, The Ohio State University

Bringing a classic book like this one up to date is always an important event. In this new edition, Robert Spitzer moves seamlessly between legal, social, and political perspectives to deliver a comprehensive panorama touching all the significant and nuanced issues in the current gun debate.

--Michael R. Weisser, Founder of Mike the Gun Guy: News and Notes about Guns; Author of Guns for Good Guys, Guns for Bad Guys

The Politics of Gun Control is a classic work in American politics and policy. [It] continues to capture students’ imaginations (and those of faculty as well). Although arguments over gun control are frequently emotional, Robert Spitzer does his customary excellent job in providing a smart, clear-headed approach to an explosive issue.

--Burdett Loomis, University of Kansas

This is the definitive book on gun politics, written by the dean of gun politics scholars.

--Kristin A. Goss, Duke University

Robert Spitzer’s The Politics of Gun Control remains the source for in-depth, thorough, and fair information and analysis for the politics of firearms in the United States. In the crisp and thoroughly readable narrative of this new edition, Spitzer takes his audience from the Founding Era to the time of Trump, providing valuable and thought-provoking insight at every stop along the way. A very important piece of work.

--Mark D. Brewer, University of Maine

Robert Spitzer has written the classic work on the gun control problem: His analysis is comprehensive, penetrating, and dispassionate. With essential information and perspective on the United States’ weak gun laws, this new edition of The Politics of Gun Control should be the primary resource for all researchers, engaged citizens, and public officials.

--Raymond Tatalovich, Loyola University Chicago

The new edition of The Politics of Gun Control demonstrates that Robert Spitzer remains the preeminent scholar of firearm policy. He continues to deepen and refine his approach to the gun issue, providing a sober treatment of the persistence of gun violence and its relevance for making regulatory social policy. Spitzer’s detailed analysis and crystal-clear writing make this volume valuable for students at all levels, for public policy researchers, and for the general public.

--Glenn H. Utter, Lamar University

The Politics of Gun Control is well-researched and comprehensive, and—most importantly—accessible for modern students of public policy. Through the lens of gun policy, Robert Spitzer superbly captures the nuances, absurdities, and relative certainties of American public policy.

--Zachary L. Wilhide, Old Dominion University