As zine makers never tire to state, making a zine is in itself an awesome thing, and every person who takes the time to write, put together and share his or her creation with other people deserves to be praised. This said, it’s also true that too many zines are not all that interesting. Between poorly chosen subjects, navel-gazing perziners, and just plain bad writers, I sometimes wonder why I waste my time reading so-so stuff instead of a good book. Luckily once in a while I discover something truly different that manages to both entertain and inform. American Gun Culture Report goes even beyond that, as editor Ross Eliot tackles a controversial subject in an original, thought-provoking way. The subject, of course, is gun control; the role firearms play within society and culture; and how they relate to power, violence, and politics. More importantly, Ross wants to show that not all gun owners are your stereotypical supporters of the status quo or racist paranoiacs. As he writes in the premiere issue of AGCR, “there should be no contradiction between advocating for human rights as well as gun rights.” (To get the idea, you only have to check his web site out and have a look at the photo gallery, featuring a seemingly out of place bunch of gays, Goths, and other strangely clothed people at a shooting range in Portland).
I was born and raised in Italy, and Europe has been for years an anti-gun environment. My father was a police officer, and in my family we all knew where he kept his pistol, but the place was strictly off-limits and I never even dreamed of touching it. For the last 16 years, then, I have lived in Japan, a country where firearm ownership is severely restricted. They put you in prison even if you own a modified toy gun. Indeed, the general opinion here is that the strict national laws must be thanked for the very low rate of violent deaths. With such a background, you can imagine the attitude with which I approached this zine (let’s say “open but skeptical”). Also, I keep thinking that the USA is in many respects an extreme country with extreme social conditions, and what can be considered acceptable and even necessary for people living there – “we have a moral right and responsibility to defend ourselves and our families against harm” (Wild West style) – is a little out of place in our countries. But Ross really does a very fine job of balancing all the different points of views. Another thing I noticed is that in the span of three issues, he has somewhat expanded the scope of AGCR from a strictly-gun-talk zine to a place where social and political issues are thoroughly explored. And of course there is the writing: AGCR currently boasts some of the most interesting, articulate, wickedly funny writers in zinedom. And no, Ross didn’t have to point a gun to my head to make me write such a good review. Order AGCR and find for yourself.
American Gun Culture Report, issues #1-3, $3.00, $10.00 for a 4-issue subscription, 52 pages www.myspace.com/agcr308