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Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun
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Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun

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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  418 ratings  ·  52 reviews
This devastating book begins with an account of a crime that is by now almost commonplace: on December 16, 1988, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Elliot walked into his Virginia high school with a Cobray M-11/9 and several hundred rounds of ammunition tucked in his backpack. By day's end, he had killed one teacher and severely wounded another.

In Lethal Passage Erik Larson shows u
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ebook, 304 pages
Published July 27th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,704)
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Samantha
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't make it all the way through this book. I really like the author's other books but this one was not what I expected. I was more interested in hearing the story of this kid and the school shooting but that turned out to just be mentioned for maybe one graf per chapter if that. The rest is just facts and dates about gun production and gun laws. It might have been interesting still, but it was just so incredibly biased and one-sided. I felt insulted as a ...more
Jeffrey
Erik Larson, in 1993, wrote Lethal Passage, and asked his audience what would it take for America to recognize the need for gun regulation. 20 years later, the book is still relevant, although gun violence has only continued to increase.

On page 228, Larson writes, "In discussing this book with my editor and her marketing associates, we all came to the same conclusion. This book would never lack for a promotional tie to a national news event because a new massacre was bound to occur within the v
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Jb
This somewhat dated book (1992) provides much scary information about American society’s gun culture. Author intersperses story of how a deranged teenager was able to carry out an assault on a Virginia Beach school using an automatic pistol with facts about how gun dealers and the National Rifle Association have intimidated legislators into legal irresponsibility. Even weak existing restrictive laws have many loopholes. Mentioned also is how the NRA distorts the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment ...more
Rustezz
Larson provides an unbiased view of current U.S. firearms regulations and the ATF. He brings up numerous problems and loopholes, which allow the proliferation of firearms to reach the streets. Larson addresses numerous issues throughout the book. Instead of just bringing these issues to light, he actually provides what he feels would be solutions. He investigates all angles of the gun problem in America by following the stories of a school shooting, gun manufactures, gun dealers, and the NRA gun ...more
Sandy
This is the story of American gun culture told through the story of bullied schoolboy Nicholas Elliot, who plots his revenge by acquiring a handgun and then opening up on his teachers and classmates in a private Christian school in Virginia in December, 1988. Larson traces the history of the Cobray M-11/9 from its creation to its arrival in the hand of an angry young man in the context of (deliberately) lax legislation that makes it easier to get a gun than to get a driver's license in the Unite ...more
Caitlyn
Over two decades since this book was written and sadly its still quite relevant. The book takes the story of how one boy got one gun to shoot at a school and looks at how past US decisions got us to the point where gun violence is a daily happening and yet most Americans don't even bat an eye. the two stories are interlocked to demonstrate the story of how a boy easily gets a hold of a gun to seek revenge against a fellow student while showing how America became the nation that holds guns centra ...more
Israel
The most interesting aspect of this book is this story is twenty years old but still relevant today. Erik Larson approaches a school shooting in Virginia back in 1988 by telling the story of the shooter Nicholas Elliot and the gun he used the Cobray M – 11/9. The first thing that struck me about this book is that Larson spends so much time telling the story of the Cobray and not that of the shooter. I’ve just become accustomed to the detailed profile of school shooters and not of the weapons the ...more
Joel
Written in 1993, it's a perspective from America as it was looking into the abyss. For anyone familiar with Freakanomics, you'll know that at just about that time, things started to change in the crime landscape in America, giving us a less bleak and dismal view of the gun-toting future than we all thought we'd have.

Still, the book makes some interesting points as it takes us through the history of America and it's love affair with guns, and how that plays out in the hands of individuals. The th
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Alicia Triemert
Jan 11, 2012 Alicia Triemert is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
January 11th, 2012
The book starts out telling you about an African American boy named Nicholas Elliot who brought a gun to school. No one has ever followed a gun and traced where it was been. Erik Larson was able to receive a gun license at a very cheap price. It is once of the easiest licenses to obtain. With this license he is able to go to gun shows and fairs along with being able to sell firearms. Nicholas was a troubled boy with Dyslexia and was picked on for his disability. He was put in s
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Emily Ann Meyer
This was AMAZING! Larson traced the "genealogy" of a gun used in a school shooting in 1989 - a school shooting I'd not heard of, in spite of the fact that I lived in the state (Virginia) where it had taken place.

In the process, he also makes some very apt points about the gun control debate and reveals a few bits of information that make my blood run cold (there's no law prohibiting a blind person from gun ownership).

It's easier to get a license to be a gun dealer than it is to get a license t
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Landon
Lethal Passage is a book that briefly tells us about a 15 year old boy named Nicholas Elliot, who brought a Cobray M-11/9 semiautomatic pistol into his high school and attempted a mass shooting in 1988. The story is commentated by and given in context to the author's views on gun rights, the ethics (or lack their of) of gun dealers and manufacturers, and current gun laws. The history of gun control, the NRA, and American crime is also disused. The book if full of very intriguing statistical info ...more
Tim
Though this book is 20 years old it offers great insights into the gun culture of the US. Larson is a great researcher and his sense of narrative is strong and engaging. This is very easy to read.
Larson follows a gun used in a homicide from its manufacture to the store to the hand of a young angry teenager.
He shows the ridiculousness of most of our current laws from both the left and right. Recommend to people who can't understand how we got here.
Angel
I wrote these impressions of the book back then:

>>This book is the story of 16 yr. old Nicholas who brought to school and fired a Cobray M 11/9. Through the story, Larson carefully traces the travels of the weapon and convincingly demonstrates what is wrong with gun laws in the United States. I found the book both interesting and instructive. Before reading it, I had not idea of how easy it could be to buy a firearm (not that I would want to). Mr. Larson's conclusions are credible because
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Michelle Stanbary
I enjoy his writing style in his other books, and this book is also written well. I read it for the information it contained so that I could better understand the gun culture in America. The amount of detailed research he conducted is evident, but the book is a slow read because of all of the statistics included.
While I think that this book was probably great in the early 1990s when it came out, it does seem to be quite outdated now with some of the legislation and current issues. He does make s
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Jerry
If you can overlook or scan through all the details of gun laws, activities, etc. this can be an interesting read. The author has an obvious bias with which I do not agree...what? me have an obvious bias...I don't think So!
Ari Pepper
This was written in 1994, so the laws that Larson discusses have since been updated but the points that are discussed are still relevant. Larson goes in depth into the history of guns and gun culture in America that lead to the school shooting at Atlantic Shores Christian School in 1988. The book is not only a case study of the shooter, Nicholas Elliot, the school, the victims, and the gun store that sold him the weapon; but also of the gun laws that allowed for him to acquire the semi-automatic ...more
Jerry Smith
I like the way Larson writes and this is one of his earlier works so doesn't follow his current style of weaving two tenuously connected stories together. It is also a lot more factual and less novel-like in prose (although his other works are all factual as well).

Written in the 1990s so getting a little dated it still asks serious questions about US gun culture that we really need to think about. Larson extrapolates the lessons from a school shooting that was relatively mild in comparison to Co
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Scottaggart
It is frustrating to read a book that was published 20 years ago and still see many of the issues it discusses still unresolved. It is still too easy for the wrong people to get access to deadly weapons.
Joseph
This is a solid 3 to 3 1/2 stars. Larson has become one of my favorite authors to read and this is one of his first books he wrote.

I knew about the illegal guns and how they were sort distributed, but never at this much detail. It is really scary to think that pretty much anyone can get one and order them over the phone or have them shipped to you without such a thorough back ground check at that time. I am not sure how much has changed since 93', but I don't think much.

I only wished that the ca
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Carol
A must read...over 20 years ago a 15 year old was able to acquire a lethal handgun and walk into his school with a high capacity ammunition clip, shoot...injure and kill. $30.00 gets you the ability to deal in firearms. Not much has changed, and unfortunately, Brady's Law is now expired...reference in the book as a move to sanity. Eye opening exposé into the world of gun shows, distribution of "How to..." Books and the easy access to anything by anybody. Send a copy to your legislators!
Stacy
This book covers a school shooting in 1988 and the author's research of the particular gun he used. This was written before Columbine, but many of the recommendations Larson made would have been helpful had they been put in place.

Sometimes it gets kind of tedious when reading about the history of the guns. Still, it was an eye opener as to just what is available legally, and how people are able to go outside the laws if they are private sellers.
John
It was sickening to be reading this excellent book and thinking about it being 20 years old. When are we going to have effective gun regulation that might have prevented the last one, the massacre of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary? Erik Larson was asking the same kind of questions in his 20 year old book. Obviously it is going to take even worse incidents for effective gun regulation to happen in our country.
kihan
Any fan of "The devil in the white city" by Erik Larson ought to read this fascinating report of US gun control. It is absolutely engaging (and horrifying) as the unbelievable circumstances and laughable loopholes in regulations that resulted in a school boy to obtain a gun to bring to school and go on shooting. Made me flinch, thinking about this sad young bullied black kid and what kind of mindset he had while all this happened.
Joni
I thought after The Devil and the White City, I would enjoy another one of his books. Not knowing that I would read The Moment I First Believed next, this was an unusually hard book to read. The last page is what really got to me. If you can stomach the talk of guns, school violence and evil, a read worth reading, just don't read Wally Lambs book next.
Patrick
On one hand this book seems out of date since it was written before 9/11 and the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech. The popular conception is that everything changed after those events, but Larson provides a lot of evidence that made me view them as a continuation of the history of American violence--just more extreme and with more advanced weapons.
Danielle
Aug 02, 2012 Danielle marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"Devil in the White City" is Larson's most famous and most popular book, but I think serial killers are boring, and the crimes Holmes committed are especially gruesome. This earlier book sounds more interesting to me and I can see his scrupulous research making it very informative as well.
Maxwell
i think this book is a great wake-up call to many gun-myths, and without being fanatic, tells of the exact problems with the nra-gun culture in america. this book shows how essential it is to change how we think of guns, and try to deal with the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
Gary Burke
Written in the early 90's so it's a bit dated, but still relevant today especially in light of recent mass shootings over the past year. Interesting story of how certain types of semi-automatic weapons come to be so easily accessible in the states. An interesting read.
Melanie
interesting stuff - not as good as his last two books, but similar style. The material is meticulously researched, but not balanced. I agree with him, so I didn't mind so much. All in all, definitely worth the time to read, but nowhere near Devil in White City.
Joe
20 years old and just as relevant now as then. It's too bad we can't have a reasoned debate about gun control in this country. This book proposes some simple and logical solutions that would protect gun owners and non-gun owners alike.
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Erik Larson, author of the international bestseller Isaac's Storm, was nominated for a National Book Award for The Devil in the White City, which also won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing. His latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, has been acquired for publication in 20 countries and optioned by Tom Hanks for a feature film. Erik is a for ...more
More about Erik Larson...
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History Thunderstruck Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

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