Tommy: The Gun That Changed America

By: Karen Blumenthal

How did the Tommy gun, advertised as “On the Side of Law and Order,” become the weapon of choice for terrorists, gangsters, and bank robbers during the 1920s and ’30s? Bibliography. Source notes. Index. Black-and-white photographs, documents, and maps.

ISBN: 9781626720848

JLG Release: Jun 2015


Sensitive Areas: Violence, Criminal culture, Murder, Terrorism, Animal cruelty, Desecration of the dead, Racism, Gruesome crime photographs
Topics: History of the Thompson submachine gun , John Taliaferro Thompson (1860-1940) , History of guns and gun laws , Gangsters and organized crime , The National Rifle Association , J , Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) , The Federal Bureau of Investigation , Twentieth-century history

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Awards & Honors

Booklist Best Young Adult Books of 2015
Booklist Editor’s Choice 2015, Nonfiction, Older Readers
New York Public Library Best Books for Teens 2015
Bulletin Blue Ribbon 2015, Nonfiction
Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2015, Informational Books for Older Readers
2016 CCBC Choices–Historical People, Places, and Events
2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Young Adult Nonfiction

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Book List*, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal*, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

School Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW]
The history of the Thompson submachine gun is the story of a tumultuous period in American history, marked by Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars, and violence. Originally developed by John Thompson as a lightweight, automatic rifle to be used by American soldiers, the Tommy gun was invented in 1918—t
[STARRED REVIEW]
The history of the Thompson submachine gun is the story of a tumultuous period in American history, marked by Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars, and violence. Originally developed by John Thompson as a lightweight, automatic rifle to be used by American soldiers, the Tommy gun was invented in 1918—too late for mass distribution during World War I—and wasn’t officially adopted by the U.S. Army until World War II. Very quickly, however, the gun that was “built for the battlefield, turned loose on the American streets” became popular with gangsters, bank robbers, strike busters, and others who appreciated its compact size and ability to spray hundreds of bullets in a matter of seconds. Attempts to limit distribution of such a powerful weapon to law-enforcement and military personnel were stymied and, in some cases, opposed by groups who supported the right to bear arms. A discussion of the development of gun control legislation is woven throughout the book, and an extensive bibliography and source notes are appended. Blumenthal breathes life into this seemingly off-putting subject, relating individual cases in which the Tommy gun made history and delving into the exciting tales of notorious gangsters while still maintaining an unbiased, objective approach. The book’s many photographs and illustrations add to its appeal. VERDICT This action-packed title will hold the attention of reluctant readers and history buffs alike.—MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

Horn Book

In this biography of a gun and the times in which it lived, Blumenthal traces the Thompson submachine gun, a.k.a. the Tommy. After the Spanish-American War, an Army officer, John Thompson, believed that America needed a lightweight, automatic, hand-held rifle in order to be prepared for the next conflict. The Army did not share his opinion, so he l In this biography of a gun and the times in which it lived, Blumenthal traces the Thompson submachine gun, a.k.a. the Tommy. After the Spanish-American War, an Army officer, John Thompson, believed that America needed a lightweight, automatic, hand-held rifle in order to be prepared for the next conflict. The Army did not share his opinion, so he left the service and developed his own weapon, completed with superior bad timing on Armistice Day in 1918. Without a ready military market Thompson found other avenues for disbursement, and an open market (along with a few robberies) put the Tommy in the hands of the crooks and bootleggers terrorizing the next two decades in American history. At this point Blumenthal turns her attention to these criminals as well as the lawmen trying to stop them. Although short-lived, the Tommy finally realized its creator’s dream, becoming a valuable weapon during World War II, but one replaced at war’s end. In a third thread of her narrative, Blumenthal also examines the history of gun laws in America. With thorough research and impeccable documentation, the author shows the complexity of gun culture, leaving more questions than answers concerning contemporary use and misuse of firearms and the future of Second Amendment battles. Appended with an extensive bibliography and source notes; index not seen. betty carter

Junior Library Guild

  • Meticulously researched and compelling, this fascinating narrative will engage diverse readers—those interested in American history, military history, inventors and inventions, weapons, crime, and the law and civil liberties.
  • The book highlights a dilemma not often shown in works about inventions and their inventors: the di
    • Meticulously researched and compelling, this fascinating narrative will engage diverse readers—those interested in American history, military history, inventors and inventions, weapons, crime, and the law and civil liberties.
    • The book highlights a dilemma not often shown in works about inventions and their inventors: the discrepancy between the inventors’ intentions for their creations versus how the inventions are actually used. In this case, John Talliaferro Thompson designed the Tommy gun for U.S. soldiers to win World War I, not as a go-to weapon for gangsters and terrorists.
    • Karen Blumenthal’s polished prose and eye for detail make for an absorbing read: “the Chicago police brought out a force capable of destroying a small platoon to meet [bank robber John Dillinger]. . . . Several hundred onlookers watched as he was pushed into a car, wearing only a blue suit and shivering without a coat or hat. Then a long caravan of police cars, carrying at least six Tommy guns, several dozen pistols, and assorted rifles and shotguns, escorted Dillinger to a jail that was supposed to be escape proof.”
    • Numerous reproductions of period photographs and newspaper articles reveal the extent of organized crime in the United States during the 1920s and ’30s—and how often Tommy guns were used in these crimes. The documents make it easy to understand why a debate about gun control ensued.
    • This thoughtful treatment of the role of guns in society offers much fodder for discussion. Blumenthal notes that criminal use of Tommy guns inspired the 1934 National Firearms Act (the first federal gun legislation in the United States), and asks: “What is the right balance between individual freedoms and community safety? And how do we effectively address the danger of powerful weapons in the wrong hands?”

Book Details

ISBN

9781626720848

First Release

June 2015

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

683.4

Trim Size

6" x 9"

Page Count

240

Accelerated Reader

Level 8.3; Points: 6;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 11.7; Points: 10;

Lexile

Level 1180L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Roaring Brook

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Violence, Criminal culture, Murder, Terrorism, Animal cruelty, Desecration of the dead, Racism, Gruesome crime photographs

Topics

History of the Thompson submachine gun, John Taliaferro Thompson (1860-1940), History of guns and gun laws, Gangsters and organized crime, The National Rifle Association, J, Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Twentieth-century history,

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