Edinburgh Book Festival: Iain Overton: Keeping Gun Crime in Your Sights

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Edinburgh International Book Festival
Iain Overton, Andrew Franklin (chair)
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Iain Overton’s book ‘Gun, Baby, Gun’ investigates one of the most disturbing and frequently overlooked crisis of our times – the proliferation of guns in the modern world.

Ranging from the Ukraine to Honduras, Colombia and Mexico, Overton reminds us how easy it appears to be to get hold of weapons that annually inflict as many as casualties any ‘weapon of mass destruction’ might.

The numbers are, unsurprisingly, shocking; some 12 million bullets are produced every year, there are enough guns on earth to provide every eight of us with one. Some of these are in the hands of criminals, but many are owned by tax-paying citizens, as in the United States.

Overton is an investigative journalist and activist, propelled by a particularly traumatic experience into researching all the aspects of the arms trade. His findings make for uncomfortable reflection; whether it is lives cut short by gang violence in Hispanic America, accidental or other fatalities in the United States or the high mortality among the suicidal who use guns, Overton points to the widespread availability of guns as the greatest contributory factor in all of these cases.

‘Gun, Baby, Gun’ is exceptionally well researched and its findings hard to ignore or argue against. Although there are a number of factors in play, particularly in the United States, where a combination of tradition and sets of anxieties make legislation for gun control particularly difficult, the fact that the major powers are also the world’s largest arms dealers makes the prospect of any global agreement on limiting the sale of arms a very remote possibility.

As Overton briefly implied, however, it is the orphaned, those who suffer what are antiseptically described as ‘life changing injuries’ and all those whose circumstances and futures are irrevocably altered by gunfire who represent the hidden victims of the exponential proliferation of guns across our planet.

Iain Overton 'Gun Baby Gun' Canongate Books £18.99 isbn 9781782113423