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Gunstories: Life-Changing Experiences with Guns    by S. Beth Atkin order for
by S. Beth Atkin
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTempest, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

S. Beth Atkin gives voice to eighteen young men and women in Gunstories. In their own words, they discuss what effects guns had in their lives. Story titles include: In the Middle, A Bullet Doesn't Have A Name, ProGun Mom, GunGirl, and Perfection Is The Key. In her Introduction, Atkin clarifies that she has no political agenda for this project, saying 'Gunstories is about young people's life-changing experiences with guns ... a subtle, poignant, extreme, devastating, or meaningful effect'.

In Shooting Has Empowered Me, twenty-one year old Merry Briski shares what the 'shooting sports' and competitions have meant to her over the past ten years. She tells us that shooting with her dad and younger sister Jackie (who has her own story in the book and aspires to become a Marine) has strengthened their bonding. Merry has developed a 'drive for excellence', gaining strength competitively, as well as determination and problem-solving skills. She writes, 'I knew very clearly that the ability to shoot gave me the ability to defend myself ... shooting sports gave me a sense of security and self-reliance ... There is good gun use and bad gun use'. Merry emphasizes teaching SAFETY in gun use at all times.

Seventeen-year old twins Niko and Theo Milonopolous co-founded KidzVoiceLA, focused on the passage of a 'citywide ban on the sale of ammunition in LA'. These ambitious young men give speeches, join marches, and are recipients of the Annual Injury Prevention Award, the Youth Action Award, and the 2000 President's Service Award. They feel that their continuing mission of gun control has made them better persons, more aware and knowledgeable. They have learned the constraints of their State law - 'that you can't make any local law that conflicts with the State law, ergo ... you can't ban guns in the State ... so they are committed toward an ammunition ban'.

Atkin includes a bibliography and a list of organizations (pro and con), such as Common Sense about Kids and Guns, and Million Mom March. Her book addresses teen suicides, drive-by and gang shootings, school shootings such as at Columbine in 1999, and consequences of accidental shootings. I find the voices of young men and women refreshingly straightforward and courageous, no matter what stand they take on the issue. Atkin deserves accolades for bringing this project into the limelight, a difficult task on a controversial subject. Reading Gunstories has given me insight into young people's thoughts, feelings, and experiences about firearms.

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