The Glock is a chillingly efficient weapon. It’s light and fast, durable and accurate. Its sleek design is considered by many to be sexy; it shows up in movies and on TV, it’s a favorite of cops and killers alike.
Journalist Paul M. Barrett, an assistant managing editor at Bloomberg Businessweek, became interested in the gun back in the 1990s while working on a story. His book “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun” (America’s gun, even though it was invented by an Austrian) was 15 years in the researching. Newly out in paperback, it’s been a New York Times bestseller.
Barrett will speak at 7 p.m. Monday at the Ramsey County Public Library in Roseville.
Q: Where did your interest in researching the Glock begin?
A: In the late 1990s, I wrote about litigation against the gun industry. I knew nothing about guns, the people who made them or the people who bought them. I decided to learn. That inquiry led, over time, to “Glock.”
Q: What was the most surprising thing you found out?
A: How frequently attempts to restrict the lawful ownership of firearms had had the unintended consequence of inciting the sale of more firearms.
Q: How did a guy who made window hardware (and who had a rather amazing life himself) turn to making guns?
A: Gaston Glock was an unremarkable engineer who harbored a remarkable ambition to “make it.” He saw a chance in the Austrian military’s need for a new sidearm, and he took that chance.
Q: Your book suggests that when police departments switched to Glocks, their old guns often ended up in the hands of criminals. How did this happen?
A: Your premise is a little overstated. One way that Glock enticed American police departments to switch from Smith & Wesson in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to offer financially attractive trade-in deals. Glock took those old revolvers, refurbished them, and resold them on the secondary market. Some (but certainly not all or most) of those police trade-ins found their way into the hands of criminals.
Q: How did Glocks become so, well, sexy? When they are, after all, instruments of killing?
A: When they were introduced in the U.S. in the mid-1980s, Glock pistols had the look of the future: black, sleek, simple. They looked like something out of “Star Trek,” as opposed to the Old West or a 1930s noir movie. Hollywood and rap performers immediately adopted the Glock because it was new and different. That gave the brand a degree of celebrity it never would have had otherwise.
Q: And, possibly the unanswerable question that everyone asks you, do you see any movement in gun control laws or in reducing the number of available guns in the United States?
A: We are seeing a great deal of movement — but at the state level, not in Washington. Since the Newtown massacre, state legislatures in New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland and other places have all enacted tougher gun control laws. None of those laws are aimed at reducing the number of guns already in private hands. American civilians own some 300 million firearms. That’s not going to change anytime soon. People like their guns in this country. The Second Amendment bars the government from confiscating conventional guns from law-abiding citizens. A final thought: Reducing the number of guns ought not to be a top priority. Reducing the access to guns of criminals and insane people ought to be the goal. The point is to reduce criminal and negligent use of guns, not possession of guns by law-abiding people.
Q: Describe your writing room.
A: My very patient wife has allowed me to turn our second bedroom into a writing room/EPA Superfund site. Enter at your own risk!
Q: What is your writing strategy — do you have rituals that you maintain?
A: Begin writing early and tap out a few sentences whenever there’s a spare moment. I have a day job on the staff of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, so I have to get creative with my time. Airplanes and hotel rooms are excellent places to bang out first chapter drafts.
Q: How do you get past writers’ block (or the distraction of the Internet)?
A: More than 25 years of employment at a daily newspaper (the Wall Street Journal) and weekly magazine (Bloomberg Businessweek) have conditioned me to just start typing. As for the Internet, I do not Facebook or tweet, so that helps. I also do not send or receive texts. I screen phone calls.
Q: Do you have a favorite book from childhood?
A: I had several collections of Greek and Norse myths. Re-read them on a regular basis.
Q: What books do you re-read?
A: Richard Ford’s “The Sportswriter” and “Independence Day.” All of David Foster Wallace’s reported essays. Frederick Exley’s “A Fan’s Notes.” Philip Roth’s “Goodbye Columbus,” “When She Was Good,” “Zuckerman Unbound.”
Q: What’s on your desk?
A: A god-awful mess.
Q: What are you reading right now?
A: Steve Coll’s “Private Empire” (about ExxonMobil). Steve Coll is one of my favorite journalists, along with Lawrence Wright, whose “Going Clear” is next on my list.
Q: What’s been the best place so far to do a reading?
A: I’m sure the Ramsey County library will soon jump to the No. 1 spot. The good folks at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., have been terrific.
Q: Which authors have inspired you?
A: My father, Laurence I. Barrett, the great political writer for the New York Herald Tribune and Time. He is the author of a wonderful novel, “The Mayor of New York” (1965), and the definitive account of Ronald Reagan’s California circle, “Gambling With History” (1983).