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Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  647 Ratings  ·  71 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
ebook, 304 pages
Published July 27th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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Aug 03, 2011 Samantha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2013 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2011 Jb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2008 Rustezz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2015 Tami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erik Larsen has the gift of writing, even in such a topic as controversial as gun control. I learned a lot about the history of NRA and their viewpoints and my eyes were opened to what is readily out there for anyone seeking information on how to kill and how to maximize the use of a gun. Incredible! The statistics Larsen gives are staggering and that was 20 years ago when he wrote this! I like how he showed the many problems and hang ups with gun control and legislation and then ends the book w ...more
Jul 17, 2015 Caitlyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
May 26, 2013 Israel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2009 Joel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
This is the last book I needed to read by Erik Larson. It started out really well, but then it kind of devolved. I liked the idea of the following the story of a bad gun and then interweaving it with gun history. But I didn't like all his gun safety posturing. Also, since it's 22 years old, it was a little dated. But I'm glad I read it.
Best quote: "It is always important to read anything on the gun debate carefully with an eye to capturing distortion and undisclosed bias."
Emily Ann Meyer
May 31, 2008 Emily Ann Meyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-fluff, policy, 2008
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
Jan 17, 2016 Fishface rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An excellent read. The author traces the progress of a single semi-automatic pistol from its point of origin to the scene of a school shooting, using the stops along the way to illustrate what is wrong with a system that allows anyone to buy a gun and use it any old way, as one dealert, distributor, engineer and government office after another to deny any responsibility in the mayhem that follows.
Jul 31, 2013 Landon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Manuel J.
Dec 16, 2015 Manuel J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book like this is an eye opener to the american culture regarding guns. It is difficult to grasp the problems involved in arms dealing in the USA for an european, so there is a lot to learn from the book. I am grateful for the Coda, and hope that the new path regarding gun regulation will, some day, avoid the all too common news about shootings in schools and other places.
Dec 31, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 02, 2008 Angel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-sciences
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
Michelle Stanbary
Dec 31, 2014 Michelle Stanbary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sometimes you need to read some non-fiction outside your comfort zone to expand your thinking process and challenge your own perspectives. While the book is over 20 years old it does give you some nice history to help understand the debates on gun controls.
An earlier work by the author of The Devil and the White City (italics), this book shows Larson's same attention to detail. Though it doesn't juxtapose two seemingly unrelated events like his later books, it's purposeful digressions are engaging.
Jun 21, 2014 Jerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Laurie Hale
Jul 02, 2016 Laurie Hale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you are an ardent opponent of gun control, please read this book. Larson maps put how easy it is for the "good guys" to proliferate the possession of firearms among the "bad guys." Read this book.
Ari Pepper
Aug 22, 2012 Ari Pepper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, crime
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
Jul 31, 2014 Scottaggart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 20, 2016 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a little dated, but anyone interested in the gun-control/gun-rights debate should read this book. Very well-researched.
Feb 20, 2016 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erik Larson is one of my favorite authors, and this is a fine book, but you can tell he wrote it early in his career. He definitely perfected his writing as the years passed.

It is still well-written, but I can't say that it's a fun book to read. It will leave you shaking your head at our insane, lax gun laws, and the most frustrating thing is that in the twenty years since this book was written, it has only gotten worse.

Larson wonders what it will take to make us pass common sense gun reform l
May 05, 2015 Joseph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: erik-larson
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
Mar 26, 2015 Dick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read and then Call your Congressman!
May 12, 2016 Xander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly well researched book on the proliferation of guns in American society. Larson even goes so far as to become a licensed firearm dealer to see how (not) difficult the process is. My only complaints: The writing style is definitely not as solid as his more recent works, and some of the arguments in the book are outdated (like the idea that violent tv shows cause people to be more violent).
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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
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“Yet by tracing the migration of guns, one comes readily and vividly to understand where the nation’s current patchwork of gun controls have gone astray, and how easily they could be fixed to the increased satisfaction of gun owners and gun opponents alike.” 0 likes
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