No Comment, Six Questions — December 23, 2010, 11:34 am

On Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Six Questions for Eric Metaxas

Eric Metaxas, whose best-selling biography of William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace, provided the framework for an important motion picture, is now out with a thick review of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian who played a key role in one of the attempts to kill Adolf Hitler. I put six questions to Metaxas about Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy:

1. You dedicate your book, in German no less, to your grandfather. Tell us the significance of that dedication, and how in the course of your own life you were drawn to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


My grandfather was a genuinely reluctant German soldier who was killed in the war in 1944, at the age of 31. My mother was nine. The tragedy of my mother’s losing her father at that age has been a big part of my life. My grandfather didn’t want to fight in Hitler’s war. My grandmother said that he used to listen to the BBC with his ear literally pressed against the radio speaker, because if you were caught listening to the BBC you could be sent to a concentration camp. The boss in the factory where he worked was a friend of the family–I met him in 1971–and he was able to keep my grandfather from being drafted until 1943. Of course that wasn’t quite long enough.

When I first heard the story of Bonhoeffer in 1988, I was staggered. I was slowly returning to the Christian faith that I had lost as a student at Yale, and Bonhoeffer’s personal story and his magnificent book, The Cost of Discipleship, really spoke to me and helped me as I struggled with my questions. As a German-American, I was especially touched by his story, because he was a German who had spoken up for those who couldn’t speak. First and foremost for the Jews of Europe, but also for many like my grandfather, who were powerless and who in their own way were also victims of the Nazis.

The dedication to my grandfather, for whom I’m named, includes a quote from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says that those who believe in Him will be “raised up on the last day.” Because of that promise I hope that I will actually get to meet my grandfather.

2. Albert Einstein was famous for saying that a “foolish faith in authority” was a core weakness in German society. German writers like Heinrich Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Frank Wedekind depict an educational system designed to break the individual’s will and make social conformists. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer emerged from this milieu unbent and with a strong contrarian streak. What is it about Bonhoeffer’s personality and upbringing that built such a determined opponent of the Nazi state?

Somehow Bonhoeffer’s time in New York, especially his worship in the “negro churches,” played their part… He had heard the gospel preached there and had seen real piety among a suffering people. The fiery sermons and the joyous worship and singing had all opened his eyes to something and had changed him. Had he been “born again”?

What happened is unclear, but the results were obvious. For one thing, he now became a regular churchgoer for the first time in his life and took Communion as often as possible… Two years earlier, in New York, he hadn’t been interested in going to church. He loved working with the children in Harlem, and he loved going to concerts and movies and museums, and he loved traveling, and he loved the philosophical and academic give-and-take of theological ideas–but here was something new.
—From Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Reprinted by permission of Thomas Nelson – © 2010 Eric Metaxas

The Bonhoeffer family were not mere contrarians or “anti-authority” in the shallow contemporary sense, but they did seem to have a rare and healthy perspective on themselves and on Germany. They were patriotic, but they were wary of certain impulses in the German national character. Bonhoeffer’s mother was a serious Christian who homeschooled her children because she didn’t like the authoritarian character of German public schooling at that time. She would quote the saying that German children “had their backs broken twice,” first in school and then in the military.

Of course a serious Christian perspective makes one wary of knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism, too. Anti-authoritarianism is the typical and opposite American impulse. That’s part of our national character and what we need to guard against. Bonhoeffer saw it at Union Theological Seminary in New York and was quite put off by it. The real question for Bonhoeffer was “What is legitimate authority?” In America we have by now swung so far in the anti-authoritarian direction that we have bumper stickers that say “Question Authority.” This implies that all authority is suspect, but Bonhoeffer would disagree. We are to question authority to determine whether it is legitimate. But to imply that all authority is illegitimate and mustn’t be obeyed is no different than saying that all authority is legitimate and must be obeyed.

As I say in the book, Bonhoeffer gave a famous speech two days after Hitler became Chancellor in which he deals with this issue explicitly. It is just as important today for us as it was then in Germany, but perhaps in the opposite direction.

3. John Baillie and Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that Bonhoeffer, during his time in New York, was tenaciously non-political. You give us a Bonhoeffer who seems to have taken sides in the controversy that then raged between “modernists” and “fundamentalists,” siding with the latter, who admired in particular the fundamentalist churches of Harlem, and who was appalled and moved by the sufferings of American blacks. Is there any contradiction between these two portraits?

Not at all. As Whitman says in Leaves of Grass, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” The truth is inevitably large and forces a wider perspective on things. Bonhoeffer was not a liberal or a conservative, but a Christian. He was zealous for God’s perspective on things, and God’s perspective is inevitably wider than the standard parochial political points of view. It sometimes forces us toward a liberal view and sometimes toward a conservative view.

But because Bonhoeffer has been so consistently portrayed as a theological liberal–which he was not–it’s important for us to see the other side, and I hope I’ve shown that in my book. He is clearly horrified at the way so many at Union Theological Seminary had cavalierly dispensed with the fundamentals of the Christian faith and had created an ersatz religion in their own progressive image. He was impressed with and moved by their earnest desire to help the poor, for example, but he wondered on what basis they called any of this “Christianity.” He found their theology shallow to the point of being almost evaporated entirely. But he was equally alive to the dangers on the other side, the dangers of fundamentalism and pietism. He’s complicated, but in the best sense. He’s an equal opportunity theological critic.

4. You describe the process by which Germany’s Evangelical Church crumbled quickly in the face of Nazi power, toying with heretical racial theories and portraying Hitler in Messianic terms. How did Bonhoeffer understand its weaknesses? Did he view the fact that it was an established church as contributing to its vulnerability?

Bonhoeffer was not against the idea of an established German church per se, but he had a healthy awareness of its dangers. Because he had been exposed to the American churches, the idea of the separation of church and state was not foreign and unthinkable to him. He saw that it could work and had certain advantages. But he didn’t see it as a definitive answer. When the Nazis were trying to take over the German State Church, however, he saw firsthand how an established church can go wrong. When the state encroaches upon the authority of the church, the church must stand up and be the church, else it will cease to exist. It must declare itself as separate from the state. That’s what the famous Barmen Declaration was all about, and I quote it at length in the book. It drew a bold line in the sand between the church and the National Socialist state.

5. In an interview on October 18, 2010 with Brannon Howe of Worldview Radio, you said that “God called me to write the book for right now,” because the parallels of Germany then and America today are “stunning.” What exactly are the parallels that you had in mind?

Bonhoeffer talked about how the German penchant for self-sacrifice and submission to authority had been used for evil ends by the Nazis, only a deep understanding of and commitment to the God of the Bible could stand up to such wickedness. “It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith,” he wrote, “and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.” Here was the rub: one must be more zealous to please God than to avoid sin. One must sacrifice oneself utterly to God’s purposes, even to the point of possibly making moral mistakes. One’s obedience to God must be forward-oriented and zealous and free, and to be a mere moralist or pietist would make such a life impossible.
—From Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Reprinted by permission of Thomas Nelson – © 2010 Eric Metaxas

There are tremendous parallels, but I didn’t see them at all until I was doing the research and writing the book. So they weren’t part of my decision to write the book. It’s only in retrospect that I felt that the call to write about Bonhoeffer had something to do with those parallels for us today. They fairly leap out from the story, so I didn’t feel any need to underscore them.

The question for Germans in the 1930s is the same question we face today. When do state concerns begin encroaching on the authority of the church to a point where the church needs to shout “halt”? If the church is healthy and is playing its role correctly, it will check the unbridled growth of the state and will protect its own members–and others, too–from illegitimate state power. Bonhoeffer wrote about this in his famous essay “The Church and the Jewish Question.” He said there were three ways that the church must behave with regard to the state. First, it must question the state. In a sense it must call the government to account, and be a voice that speaks out if and when the state is not behaving legitimately. Second, if the state is harming anyone, it’s the role of the church to help those whom the state is harming. And thirdly and most radically, if the state is behaving wrongly, it is the role of the church to directly oppose the state. That’s where he lost a lot of people. They couldn’t believe a good Lutheran German would say such a thing. But Bonhoeffer was a Christian first and a German second.

Such state encroachment usually concerns the fundamentals, such as the definition of a human being. The Nazis did not believe that human life was sacred, because they didn’t believe that human beings are created in the image of God. They were essentially pagans with a social Darwinist worldview and they began to “legally” define humanity according to this bleak, utilitarian worldview. So a German Jew was no longer a human being in the way a Gentile German was a human being. And a mentally or physically handicapped person was no longer equal to others and was therefore “disposable.” Jewish babies could be legally aborted, but German babies could not. The Nazis began to define such things in a way that aggressively challenged the beliefs of all serious Christians, so the church had to make a choice: be the church and fight the state on these issues, or accede to the state’s definitions of humanity and effectively cease to be the church. Most in the church simply acceded to the Nazi’s definitions. Those who didn’t give in formed what came to be known as the Confessing Church. Bonheoffer was one of its leaders, of course.

A related parallel has to do with Christianity itself. What is it and who gets to decide? The Nazis didn’t like certain things about the Christian faith, so they simply decided to redefine Christianity. This is always the great danger and it’s happening in our time as well. When we decide that we want to dispense with two-thousand-year-old teachings because they don’t suit us, because they strike us as old-fashioned or culturally uncomfortable, we had better be careful. One opens the door to things one hadn’t anticipated. God’s truths are eternal, or they aren’t God’s truths.


Another parallel concerns the properly Christian response to aggression and evil. Many Christians feel uncomfortable with pointing the finger at something and calling it evil, even if they feel threatened by it, but this may render them unable to confront it. Others on the opposite end of the spectrum don’t give a fig for God’s perspective and will do whatever it takes to defeat what they think of as evil. But Bonhoeffer does the hard work of asking, “What is the Christian perspective?” He saw the Nazis as evil. There’s little question of that. And he was frustrated with his fellow Christians who were uncomfortable with that idea, who were all too willing to cut the Nazis slack and continue “dialogue” with them. Bonhoeffer knew that he must confront the evil of the Nazis. The only question was how to do it. What was God saying to do?

Militant and radical Islamofascism forces us to ask these same questions. To minimize its threat is to effectively appease it, but to confront it in a way that denies the humanity of its adherents is not a Christian approach. So what is the Christian approach? Bonhoeffer trod a very lonely road in figuring this out in his day, but I think he points the way for us today. We need Bonhoeffer to help us figure this out. His warning to the church in the 1930s essentially went unheeded, but it’s my hope that today we might hear what he has to say and let it guide us toward the proper approach on this crucial issue.

6. You describe Bonhoeffer as a “prophet.” What lessons about authentic faith and political issues today would you want Americans to learn from your life of Bonhoeffer?

The main one has to do with the vast difference between mere “religion” and an actual faith in the God who made us and loves us. Bonhoeffer’s whole life is about that difference, and I think we need to hear what he has to say to us on this. His life is a picture of the difference between them, which is why I’ve written a biography and not a book of theology. To encounter a life of such beauty and courage and integrity and authenticity is inescapably inspiring. His story itself is as eloquent a statement about the meaning of life as anything I could imagine. I only hope I’ve told it in a way that does it justice.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



August 2018

Combustion Engines

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

There Will Always Be Fires

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The End of Eden

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

How to Start a Nuclear War

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Combustion Engines·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

At this scale, the firefighting operation is run by an incident management team, a group of about thirty specialists drawn from a mix of state and federal agencies and trained in fields ranging from aviation to weather forecasting and accounting to public information. The management teams are ranked according to experience and ability, from type 3 (the least skilled) to type 1 (the most). The fiercest fires are assigned to type 1s. Teams take the name of their incident commander, the field general, and some of those names become recognizable, even illustrious, in the wildfire-fighting community. One such name is that of Greg Poncin, who is to fire commanders what Wyatt Earp was to federal marshals.

Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire (detail) © Laura Verhaeghe
There Will Always Be Fires·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The pinhal interior, a wooded region of hills and narrow hollows in rural central Portugal, used to be farmland. Well into the latter half of the past century, the fields were worked by peasants from the old stone villages. Portugal was poor and isolated, and the pinhal interior particularly so; when they could, the peasants left. There is electricity and running water now, but most of the people have gone. The fields have been taken over by trees. Each year the forest encroaches farther, and each year the villages grow more lonely. There are remnants of the earlier life, though, and amid the trees the holdouts of the older generations still work a few small fields. The pinhal interior cannot yet be called wilderness, then, and that, in large part, is why it burns.

Thousands of fires burn in the region each summer, almost all of them started not by lightning or some other natural spark but by the remaining Portuguese. (The great majority of the blazes are started unintentionally, though not all.) The pinhal interior—the name means “interior pine forest,” though today there is at least as much eucalyptus as pine—stretches along a sort of climate border between the semiarid Iberian interior and the wet influence of the Atlantic; vegetation grows exceptionally well there, and in the summers fire conditions are ideal. Still, most of the burns are quickly contained, and although they have grown larger in recent years, residents have learned to pay them little mind. The creeping fire that began in the dry duff and twigs of an oak grove on June 17 of last year, in the district of Pe­drógão Grande, therefore occasioned no panic.

A local woman, Dora da Silva Co­sta, drove past the blaze in the midafternoon, by which time it had entered a stand of pines. Firefighters were on hand. “There were no people in the streets,” Costa told me. “It was just another fire.” She continued on her way. It was a Saturday, and she had brought her two young sons to visit their older cousin in Vila Facaia, the village of small farms in which she’d been raised.

Firefighters near Pedrógão Grande (detail) © Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
The End of Eden·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a blistering morning in July 2017, Ghazi Luaibi rose before dawn and set out in a worn black sedan from his home in Zubair, a town of concrete low-rises in southern Iraq. He drove for a while along sandy roads strewn with plastic bags. On the horizon, he could see gas flares from the oil refineries, pillars of amber flame rising into the sky. As he approached Basra, the largest city in the province, desert scrub gave way to empty apartment blocks and rows of withered palms. Though the sun had barely risen, the temperature was already nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous year, Basra had registered one of the highest temperatures ever reliably recorded on earth: about 129 degrees, hot enough to cause birds to drop from the sky.

Ghazi, a sixty-two-year-old with stooped shoulders, an ash-gray beard, and lively brown eyes, would have preferred to stay home and wait out the heat. But he hadn’t had much of a choice. He was the president of the local council of Mandaeans, members of a gnostic religion that appeared in Mesopotamia in the early centuries ad. Today marked the beginning of their new year, and Ghazi, who was born into the Mandaean priestly class, was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly: he needed to find a tent to shield worshippers from the sun and, most importantly, a location near flowing water where they could carry out the ceremony.

Mandaean holidays are celebrated with a mass baptism, a ritual that is deeply rooted in their scripture and theology. Mandaeans follow the teachings of Yahia Yuhana, known to Christians as John the Baptist. Water is central to their religion. They believe that all life originates in the World of Light, a spiritual realm that is the starting point for a great river known as Yardana, or Jordan. Outside the World of Light lie the lifeless, stagnant waters of the World of Darkness. According to one version of the Mandaean creation myth, a demiurge named Ptahil set out to shape a new world from the World of Darkness, which became the material world we inhabit today. Once the world was complete, Ptahil sculpted Adam, the first man, from the same dark waters as the earth, but his soul came from the World of Light. In Mandaean scripture, rivers are manifestations of the World of Light, coursing from the heavenly Jordan to the earth to purify it. To be baptized is to be immersed in this divine realm.

Basra General Hospital (detail) July 2017 © Alex Potter
How to Start a Nuclear War·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Serving as a US Air Force launch control officer for intercontinental missiles in the early Seventies, First Lieutenant Bruce Blair figured out how to start a nuclear war and kill a few hundred million people. His unit, stationed in the vast missile fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, oversaw one of four squadrons of Minuteman II ­ICBMs, each missile topped by a W56 thermonuclear warhead with an explosive force of 1.2 megatons—eighty times that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. In theory, the missiles could be fired only by order of the president of the United States, and required mutual cooperation by the two men on duty in each of the launch control centers, of which there were five for each squadron.

In fact, as Blair recounted to me recently, the system could be bypassed with remarkable ease. Safeguards made it difficult, though not impossible, for a two-man crew (of either captains or lieutenants, some straight out of college) in a single launch control center to fire a missile. But, said Blair, “it took only a small conspiracy”—of two people in two separate control centers—to launch the entire squadron of fifty missiles, “sixty megatons targeted at the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.” (The scheme would first necessitate the “disabling” of the conspirators’ silo crewmates, unless, of course, they, too, were complicit in the operation.) Working in conjunction, the plotters could “jury-rig the system” to send a “vote” by turning keys in their separate launch centers. The three other launch centers might see what was happening, but they would not be able to override the two votes, and the missiles would begin their firing sequence. Even more alarmingly, Blair discovered that if one of the plotters was posted at the particular launch control center in overall command of the squadron, they could together format and transmit a “valid and authentic launch order” for general nuclear war that would immediately launch the entire US strategic nuclear missile force, including a thousand Minuteman and fifty-four Titan missiles, without the possibility of recall. As he put it, “that would get everyone’s attention, for sure.” A more pacifically inclined conspiracy, on the other hand, could effectively disarm the strategic force by formatting and transmitting messages invalidating the presidential launch codes.

When he quit the Air Force in 1974, Blair was haunted by the power that had been within his grasp, andhe resolved to do something about it. But when he started lobbying his former superiors, he was met with indifference and even active hostility. “I got in a fair scrap with the Air Force over it,” he recalled. As Blair well knew, there was supposed to be a system already in place to prevent that type of unilateral launch. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon took comfort in this, not knowing that the Strategic Air Command, which then controlled the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, had quietly neutralized it.

This reluctance to implement an obviously desirable precaution might seem extraordinary, but it is explicable in light of the dominant theme in the military’s nuclear weapons culture: the strategy known as “launch under attack.” Theoretically, the president has the option of waiting through an attack before deciding how to respond. But in practice, the system of command and control has been organized so as to leave a president facing reports of incoming missiles with little option but to launch. In the words of Lee Butler, who commanded all US nuclear forces at the end of the Cold War, the system the military designed was “structured to drive the president invariably toward a decision to launch under attack” if he or she believes there is “incontrovertible proof that warheads actually are on the way.” Ensuring that all missiles and bombers would be en route before any enemy missiles actually landed meant that most of the targets in the strategic nuclear war plan would be destroyed—thereby justifying the purchase and deployment of the massive force required to execute such a strike.

Among students of nuclear command and control, this practice of precluding all options but the desired one is known as “jamming” the president. Blair’s irksome protests threatened to slow this process. When his pleas drew rejection from inside the system, he turned to Congress. Eventually the Air Force agreed to begin using “unlock codes”—codes transmitted at the time of the launch order by higher authority without which the crews could not fire—on the weapons in 1977. (Even then, the Navy held off safeguarding its submarine-launched nuclear missiles in this way for another twenty years.)

Following this small victory, Blair continued to probe the baroque architecture of nuclear command and control, and its extreme vulnerability to lethal mishap. In the early Eighties, while working with a top-secret clearance for the Office of Technology Assessment, he prepared a detailed report on such shortcomings. The Pentagon promptly classified it as SIOP-ESI—a level higher than top secret. (SIOP stands for Single Integrated Operational Plan, the US plan for conducting a nuclear war. ESI stands for Extremely Sensitive Information.) Hidden away in the Pentagon, the report was withheld from both relevant senior civilian officials and the very congressional committees that had commissioned it in the first place.

From positions in Washington’s national security think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, Blair used his expertise and scholarly approach to gain access to knowledgeable insiders at the highest ranks, even in Moscow. On visits to the Russian capital during the halcyon years between the Cold War’s end and the renewal of tensions in the twenty-first century, he learned that the Soviet Union had actually developed a “dead hand” in ultimate control of their strategic nuclear arsenal. If sensors detected signs of an enemy nuclear attack, the USSR’s entire missile force would immediately launch with a minimum of human intervention—in effect, the doomsday weapon that ends the world in Dr. Strangelove.

Needless to say, this was a tightly held arrangement, known only to a select few in Moscow. Similarly chilling secrets, Blair continued to learn, lurked in the bowels of the US system, often unknown to the civilian leadership that supposedly directed it. In 1998, for example, on a visit to the headquarters of Strategic Command (­STRATCOM), the force controlling all US strategic nuclear weapons, at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, he discovered that the ­­­STRATCOM targeting staff had unilaterally chosen to interpret a presidential order on nuclear targeting in such a way as to reinsert China into the ­SIOP, from which it had been removed in 1982, thereby provisionally consigning a billion Chinese to nuclear immolation. Shortly thereafter, he informed a senior White House official, whose reaction Blair recalled as “surprised” and “befuddled.”

In 2006, Blair founded Global Zero, an organization dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, with an immediate goal of ending the policy of launch under attack. By that time, the Cold War that had generated the ­SIOP and all those nuclear weapons had long since come to an end. As a result, part of the nuclear war machine had been dismantled—warhead numbers were reduced, bombers taken off alert, weapons withdrawn from Europe. But at its heart, the system continued unchanged, officially ever alert and smooth running, poised to dispatch hundreds of precisely targeted weapons, but only on receipt of an order from the commander in chief.

Bombhead, by Bruce Conner (detail) © Conner Family Trust, San Francisco, and ARS, New York City. Courtesy Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

Minimum cost of a “pleasure palace” being built for Vladimir Putin:


Israeli researchers claimed to have identified a ruthlessness gene.

Trump and Putin puzzle out cybersecurity in Helsinki, John Kelly didn't like his breakfast in Brussels, and a family of woodchucks ate the wiring in Paul Ryan's car

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today