Best-selling author Stephen King has just released a passionate call for greater gun control, titled “Guns.” In a coup for Amazon, the essay is available only through its Kindle Store for 99 cents.
King begins with a bitter recitation of the way school shootings are commonly reported in the news and the way politicians and lobbyists respond without, ultimately, disturbing the status quo. His list ends:
“21. Any bills to change existing gun laws, including those that make it possible for almost anyone in America to purchase a high-capacity assault weapon, quietly disappear into the legislative swamp.
“22. It happens again and the whole thing starts over.”
Determined and at times profane, the 8,000-word essay confronts NRA members straight on: “In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings,” King writes, “gun advocates have to ask themselves if their zeal to protect even the outer limits of gun ownership have anything to do with preserving the Second Amendment as a whole, or if it’s just a stubborn desire to hold onto what they have, and to hell with the collateral damage.”
“I have nothing against gun owners, sport shooters, or hunters,” King writes, but “how many have to die before we will give up these dangerous toys? Do the murders have to be in the mall where you shop? In your own neighborhood? In your own family?”
In the most personal section of his essay, King considers the current debate about the effect of violent media on young men. In the 1970s, he published a novel called “Rage” under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It told the story of a high school kid who takes a gun to school, shoots his Algebra teacher and holds a class hostage. “Rage” sold only a few thousand copies, but starting in the late 1980s, King began to hear about teenage boys who were inspired by the book to commit similar crimes in their own schools. He does not think that his novel “caused” these young men to kill, but he says, “I saw ‘Rage’ as a possible accelerant.” In response, he demanded that his publisher pull the book from publication.
He concludes with what he calls “a trio of reasonable measures to curb gun violence”:
1. Comprehensive and universal background checks.
2. Ban the sale of clips and magazines containing more than ten rounds.
3. Ban the sale of assault weapons such as the Bushmaster and the AR-15.
As one of the most popular authors in the world, King is immediately a powerful new presence in the gun control debate. But he repeatedly emphasizes the need for all sides to work together. Acknowledging the political difficulty of getting new restrictions passed, he notes that meaningful change will only happen “if gun advocates get behind it.”
Amazon’s Kindle Single platform is part of a dramatic shift in the publishing industry that allows authors to respond to current events quickly and in a longer form than most magazines and newspaper op-ed sections can accommodate. David Blum, an Amazon editor, said, “King finished this essay last Friday morning, and by that night we had accepted it and scheduled for publication today.”
Stephen King has released a new Kindle single titled Guns, in which the horror author — who says he owns three handguns himself — passionately advocates for additional firearm regulation. “In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, gun advocates have to ask themselves if their zeal to protect even the outer limits of gun ownership have anything to do with preserving the Second Amendment as a whole, or if it’s just a stubborn desire to hold onto what they have, and to hell with the collateral damage,” King writes. “If that’s the case, let suggest that f— you, Jack, I’m okay is not a tenable position, morally speaking.”
In the essay, which is available on Amazon for 99 cents, King writes about the first novel he ever wrote, which he penned in high school and was later published as Rage under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. The book is about a kid who shows up at school with a gun, kills a teacher, and takes his class hostage, and after it was published, Rage apparently helped inspire several real-life school shooters. So King pulled it. “My book did not break [the school shooters it appears to have influenced] or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken,” King writes. “Yet I did see Rage as a possible accelerant, which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”
King hopes gun owners will take similar measures, agreeing to certain limitations on their constitutional right to own guns (which King fully supports) because, he says, it’s the right thing to do. “I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do…. They need to say, ‘We support these measures not because the law demands we support them, but because it’s the sensible thing.”
King also counters some of the arguments frequently offered by opponents of assault-rifle and large-magazine bans, and he claims, perhaps less convincingly, that the idea that Americans are obsessed with violent entertainment is just “a self-serving lie promulgated by fundamentalist religious types and American’s propaganda-savvy gun-pimps.”
You can read more of King’s essay here.