Handguns have no place in modern society, says author Dominic Erdozain

Gun Rights

Author Dominic Erdozain was motivated to write his book, “One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy,” because he felt that there was not enough awareness about gun violence. His book takes readers through a journey of American history, exploring the evolution of gun culture and its significant impact on the nation’s values, norms and democracy.

He also stated that a shift in the gun revolution occurred in the 1980s, and that gun policy has shifted drastically in the United States over the last 50 years, from President Richard Nixon’s advocacy for a total ban on handguns to President Ronald Reagan’s characterization of guns as an American birthright.

PHOTO: Dominic Erdozain talks about his new book, "One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy."

Dominic Erdozain talks about his new book, “One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy.”

ABC News

ABC News sat down with Erdozain as he analyzed guns and gun violence in America.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Gun violence is an epidemic in our country, one that has divided the nation. In his new book, “One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy,” author and historian Dominic Erdozain takes readers on a journey through American history, examining the evolution of gun culture and its profound impact on the nation’s values, norms and democracy. Dominic joins us now. Dominic, thanks so much for taking the time and being here to talk about the book, the issue. We really do appreciate it. I’m curious what led you to explore the topic?

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DOMINIC ERDOZAIN: I had personal experiences, personal threats, which I talked about a little bit in the book. But mainly the shock of arriving here around, about the time of Sandy Hook and just seeing the devastation caused by gun violence and seeing that there, these huge mass shootings that draw the attention for a while.

And then there’s this rumbling, continuation of violence in our communities, causing lockdowns in schools. It happened in my doctor’s surgery here in Atlanta last year. And I felt that there just wasn’t awareness of either the scale of it or how recent or how new much of it was.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And I totally understand that. I covered Sandy Hook, and that basically shook me, like most people, to my core. Gun policy has shifted drastically in the United States over the last 50 years, from President Nixon’s advocacy for a total ban on handguns to President Reagan’s characterization of guns as an American birthright. What do you believe contributed to the shift in policy that we’ve seen?

ERDOZAIN: I think, you know, in the book I try to trace long term, roots in terms of slavery and in terms of kind of a militarized nationalism. But you’re right to identify that shift from Nixon to Reagan, because what we get there is a kind of culture war factor where the gun issue becomes one of the kind of carriers of purity on the right, a sort of symbol of being on the right side of a culture war which draws on the Cold War.

And it’s almost like for Reagan, a continuation of, the war against the Evil Empire. It’s like the home front of that. And once you take guns out of the realm of the practical into this symbolic sphere, or at least invest them with more symbolic value than they ever had before, they become almost untouchable. So yeah, that’s the start of the sort of revolution, really, the 1980s.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You write about the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which affirmed an individual’s right to possess firearms for self-defense. I’m curious, how do you think that decision contributes to what you see as a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment?

ERDOZAIN: Well, it’s it contributes because it overturned a handgun ban in D.C. It, so it had an immediate legal effect. It also became the basis of the 2022 Bruen decision. So Heller in 2008 makes the traditionally military right to keep and bear arms the right that was historically attached to serving under authority in a militia. The Heller decision applies that to the individual, but to guns kept in the home. Bruen then applies that to individuals outside the home.

So this is this is a drastic change. And I think that it changes things on the legal level obviously. But I think also there’s a kind of acceptance that this is the way it was. Whereas you go back as recently as the first decade of this century and 1990s, people are kind of scoffing at the idea that the right to bear arms in the military, in the, in the state militia has any bearing on the individual. But that’s quickly lost.

And I think that’s what shocks me, alarms me, most of among liberals as well as conservatives, that people had just given up on that idea. And you get people referring to constitutional rights and and some adopting it rather than seeing it as the very flawed decision, or at least the flawed history in my view, that it was based on.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Dominic, we hear this a lot. In the culture, the only thing if I’m going to get this right, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I’m curious, how do you think that that has impacted gun control measures, that one particular slogan.

ERDOZAIN: Well, it’s such an illusion. I sometimes think that the bad guy is just a good guy who’s having a bad day. You know that if you look at the data, the criminology, the sociology and what fascinated me most was the psychology of, really groundbreaking books written in the 70s, one called ‘Violent Men,’ one, ‘Power and Innocence,’ and makes the point that it’s the good guy that you need to worry about is the good guy who has this sense of righteousness and the willingness to use violence.

Road rage incidents we found out last week have increased. Road rage shootings have increased by 400% in ten years. And I follow a couple of accounts that track these. You know, a guy in a Maserati shoots a young mother with two children in a car over some trivial incident. Now, these are not the bad guys, the criminals that you are warned about by the NRA. These are just regular gun owners.

So I suppose my most challenging chapter is called The Myth of the Law-Abiding Citizen. Well, I just show that the intimate connection between the good gun owner and the violence that we’re all suffering. And even if these law-abiding citizens are not committing crimes on an individual level, they’re feeding into the narrative and the legitimacy of arms. And that’s something that is also accepted to some degree on the left as well as the right.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Yeah. And there were a lot of people after the Uvalde mass shooting, they pointed out there were a lot of good guys with guns, standing around for quite some time. Well, that was happening so that goes to your point. I’m just wondering, after doing all this research and writing this book, where do you believe, what place do guns have in a functioning democracy? Do you believe?

ERDOZAIN: Well, I mean, I appreciate your earlier guest talking about being authentic. And, you know, in a sense, leaning into the, the sort of the non-American heritage and I suppose, you know, I always come back to something Jodie Foster said after one of her movies and she said, ‘Look, you know, if the problem is rage, the problem is our fallibility.’

You know, I don’t think any living, breathing person should have a gun. So may God apply that to handguns. I don’t have any problem with people having shotguns or hunting rifles, which is very much the 20th and 19th century traditions of this country. I do have a big problem with handguns and obviously assault weapons, high capacity, high velocity weapons.

I think they have no place in a civilian society. I, I’m very critical of handguns in the home. I know a lot of people here in Atlanta who have them. And if you look at the data, you look at the statistics, It’s the families of those people who are in the greatest danger. So I’m a bit of a kind of purist on this matter. But yeah, I think handguns really don’t have much place in a modern society.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Well, Dominic, thanks so much for taking the time, and talking to us. “One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy,” is now available to purchase wherever books are sold. Thanks so much.

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