The Official Book Review from Kirkus Media LLC

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC,

THE GUNS WE LEFT BEHIND

Tales of Culture and Caliber

Hirsh, P.R.

CreateSpace (188 pp.)

$12.00 paperback, $5.99 e-book

ISBN: 978-1494877637; July 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW

In this collection of essays and fictional stories, a hunter, gun collector and competitive shooter shares his lifelong passion for guns.

Hirsh comes from the long lines of Virginians and West Virginians who treasure guns. “Seriously, if we had a flag, there’d be a gun on it,” he says. He’s also a retired English teacher and college professor who, as a researcher, decided not to join the National Rifle Association in order to maintain objectivity. The nation remains divided over guns, Hirsh writes, and he sees two sides: those who’ve grown up hearing how bad guns are and the “gun culture” that takes pride in its heritage. The first group may not like his book, but the second group will. Hirsh’s more affluent forebears include one whose company provided the water system for the Manhattan project and, later, infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center,“[s]o we are a family of plumbers who have always loved guns.” Some family-centered tales are almost reverent, such as the WWII–era story “Uncle Gene’s Carbine,” and some are hilarious, including “Supermodels and the Pigeon King,” in which Hirsh’s Cosmo-editor stepsister visits the farm with supermodels who use his Ruger 10/22 rifle to unload on a stale pastry (“Time to meet your maker, muffin!”). Hirsh is all business, however, when discussing gun safety, as he does in the essay “Shooting Up,” about some irresponsible shooters he encouraged to leave a public range. One of his most stirring fictional pieces, “The Sentinel,” tells of a single mom who, after getting a gun to protect her family, is dismayed when she has to use it. In “Bambi’s Nightmare,” Hirsh recalls the rural high school where textbook stories about animal rights “drove my students nuts.” Hunting was a way of life for them, and in 14 years at the school, Hirsh lost nine students to car and ATV accidents but none to accidental shootings or gun crime. There are some typos, but the book is well-written and largely jargon-free. Hirsh says his goal was simply to write “a friendly cultural acquaintance, not a scholarly study” about guns, and in this, he succeeds.

A nostalgic, entertaining look at gun culture.

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