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Book Review: Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America by Gary Kleck, 1991

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Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America by Gary Kleck, 1991, 511 pages, published by Aldine De Gruter, New York.  Softcover published by Routledge in 2017. Copies of Point Blank are available at ABEbooks and at Used hardcover copies are the least expensive at about $13.

This correspondent has had Point Blank on my reference shelf for about three decades. It is a valuable resource for all people interested in firearms statistics and legislation. Gary Kleck’s book has large amounts of data which is difficult to find with an Internet search. The book was published when the Internet was in its infancy.  He has tables listing firearms manufacture, imports and exports from 1946 to 1987. Those tables are one of many hard to find sources of information which are in the book.

Dr. Kleck recieved the Michael Hindelang award, for Outstanding Book, from the American Society of Criminology in 1993, shortly after Point Blank was published. He is one of the most respected professors studying criminology in the United States. Kleck is a self described liberal. He changed his opinions about what legal restrictions on gun use would be effective because of his academic research.

Here is an example of the objective writing in Point Blank, page 14:

Proponents argue that these weapons are only useful for committing crimes, and sometimes even imply they are never used for any legitimate purposes. (Fields 1979; Shields 1981). Because the guns have no legitimate purposes, it is argued, there can be no valid objection to outlawing them. 

The logical problem with this position is that whatever technical attributes guns have that make them suitable for committing crimes necessarily also  make them useful for a variety of lawful applications. This issue is discussed at length in Chapter 3.

Point Blank is in three parts. The first part details gun control issues, and details information about who owns guns in the United States and how many guns there are in the United States.  This may be the most dated portion of the book, but is valuable for historical reasons.

The second part of the book explains what effect guns have in the United States. This includes Dr. Kleck’s research on the number of times guns are used for self defense in the United States.

The third part of the book deals with types of policies which are in effect to regulate guns, and what effect those policies might be having.  Kleck is skeptical of most regulations.

Dr. Kleck is not a Second Amendment advocate. Dr. Kleck advocates universal background checks. He does not consider the implications for the Second Amendment.

I would like to see Dr. Kleck produce an updated version of Point Blank. It has been over three decades since the data was collected for Point Blank. The FBI has changed their online data access. The FBI website makes specific data much harder to find than it was just four years ago.  Part of this is the elimination of the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. It is good to have a hard copy of the data easily available. Online data can easily be changed or eliminated with a few keystrokes.

Dr. Kleck is now the David J. Bordua Professor/Professor Emeritus at the College of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Florida State University.

©2023 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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