PAUL BARRETT WILL MAKE YOU THINK twice about gun control in this country. He may even get you to change your position, or at least better understand the other side’s point of view.
Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun works on two levels: In terms of business, Glock is a fascinating story about a foreign upstart overtaking a domestic heavyweight, à la Toyota upending Ford in the 1980s. The book is also a microcosm of the gun debate in the United States, covering gun violence, policing, lobbying and legislation.
Leading up to my interview with Barrett, I carried a copy of Glock around with me, using his words as a weapon, so to speak, to challenge preconceived notions on gun control issues. After our interview, I found myself playing devil’s advocate in at least one conversation, vigorously defending gun ownership, a position I had never before taken seriously.
Paul Barrett and I met in August in the world headquarters of Bloomberg, LP, parent company of Bloomberg Businessweek, where he serves as assistant managing editor and senior writer. Over a couple of hours the conversation touched on his experiences reporting on the gun industry, the notion of conceal and carry, the unique influence of guns in American culture, the sway of the National Rifle Association in politics, the difficulty of preventing mass shooting incidents and more. The interview below is adapted from that longer conversation.
Shaun Randol: Unfortunately the timing is just right for this interview, considering the recent shootings in Aurora, CO and Oak Creek, WI.
Paul Barrett: Yes, the timing is almost always right for it because we’re a gun culture, and the Glock is by any measure the most influential handgun of the modern era. One of its distinctive characteristics is it actually tends to show up in these mass shooting incidents.
SR: You open Glock with a discussion on the 1986 shootout in Miami between two bank robbers and FBI agents, in which the criminals and two FBI agents were killed, and five other agents were wounded. You record a police lieutenant’s response to the shootout, which was not a plea for better gun control laws or economic empowerment of the poor. Instead, he called for the police to get better guns.
PB: The lieutenant, later Sheriff, Rutherford in Jacksonville was looking at the shootout in Miami and his attitude was that American law enforcement was outgunned on the increasingly violent streets of American cities. And this was a very common perception on behalf of law enforcement in the mid/late eighties. The shootout in Miami was notorious because it involved the FBI, which is the country’s premier law enforcement agency, and the FBI suffered the worst set of casualties that it had ever suffered in a gunfight on that day. Its agents were met with superior firepower on the part of two homicidal bank robbers.
The police came to the conclusion — rightly or wrongly, and there’s actually an interesting debate you can have over the discrepancy between perception and reality — whether magazine capacity was the answer to the problem they faced. Nevertheless, the bottom line conclusion on behalf of police departments all across the country, as embodied by th...read more