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Like most American boys of his generation, Paul Auster grew up playing with toy six-shooters and mimicking the gun-slinging cowboys in B Westerns. A skilled marksman by the age of ten, he also lived through the traumatic aftermath of the murder of his grandfather by his grandmother when his father was a child and knows, through firsthand experience, how families can be wrecked by a single act of gun violence.
In this short, searing book, Auster traces centuries of America’s use and abuse of guns, from the violent displacement of the native population to the forced enslavement of millions, to the bitter divide between embattled gun control and anti-gun control camps that has developed over the past 50 years and the mass shootings that dominate the news today. Since 1968, more than one and a half million Americans have been killed by guns. The numbers are so large, so catastrophic, so disproportionate to what goes on elsewhere, that one must ask why. Why is America so different—and why are we the most violent country in the Western world?
Interwoven with Spencer Ostrander’s haunting photographs of the sites of more than thirty mass shootings in all parts of the country, Bloodbath Nation presents a succinct but thorough examination of America at a crossroads, and asks the central, burning question of our moment: What kind of society do we want to live in?