Gun Baby Gun by Iain Overton

Book Review by Angus Sutherland | 01 May 2015
  • Gun Baby Gun
Book title: Gun Baby Gun
Author: Iain Overton

Investigative journalist Iain Overton’s first book is presented as a biography of ‘the gun,’ charting its life historically and geographically. Overton is Director of Investigations at Action on Armed Violence, a London-based charity whose aim ‘is to reduce harm and rebuild lives affected by armed violence.’ So though Gun Baby Gun is often dispassionate and aims at nuance, its central conclusion – that we live in a world awash with guns, the consequences of which are largely bleak – is well embedded from the start. That being the case, Overton’s work would have been stronger had he dispensed with the conceit of balance and instead directly taken on ‘the gun’ and the various ills it creates or at least exacerbates. In this model he might have taken his cue from a book like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow – about racial bias in the US justice system – that states its grievance and righteously, expertly makes the case for change.

Overton is a decent writer, though. He has a journalist’s eye for blending anecdote and statistics in service of a broader narrative. Gun Baby Gun covers a great deal of ground, touching on Salvadoran gang violence, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and the American gun lobby. Its scope is admirable, though it’s a book that reiterates a series of violent truths rather than revealing new ones.

Out now, published by Canongate, RRP £18.99