Book Review: Unintended Consequences (Ross, 1996)

This controversial work of fiction was written in the late 1990’s, after the assault weapon and magazine capacity bans were signed into law by Bill Clinton: after the Waco/Koresh standoff, the Ruby Ridge standoff, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Anti-government sentiment within the gun culture and the right was strong, and the militia movement was the focus of law enforcement attention. Also during this period, many states passed shall-issue concealed carry laws. This period of US history can be considered the transition from Gun Culture 1.0 (hunters and target shooters) to Gun Culture 2.0 (urban concealed carriers). It’s an artifact of that era, published independently and largely sold through gun shows and other non-traditional channels. I don’t recall ever seeing a copy on a shelf at Borders or Barnes and Noble or any other bookstore when it first came out.

Depending on your perspective, Unintended Consequences either tells the fictional story of patriots who rise up to force the Federal government to restrain an out of control bureaucracy, or the story of terrorists that succeed in forcing the President to bow to their demands through political violence. The protagonists are a small group of wealthy, highly skilled, lifelong “gun guys” who prevent a Waco/Ruby Ridge style raid on one of their properties, and then using news releases and recordings, combined with targeted assassinations of government agents, ignite a national rebellion and widespread targeted violence against Federal employees working for regulatory agencies. This puts so much pressure on the Executive Branch that the President gives in to the gun guys, enacting a set of policies that reads like the standard wish list for anyone in the gun culture:

“…a Presidential pardon to all persons currently serving time fo or how have been convicted of violations of the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, the McClure-Volkmer Act of 1986, the firearms and magazine provisions of the Crime Law of 1994, and all other Federal, state and local anti-gun laws, including any and all anti-concealed carry laws.”

Like many books from that era, from Tom Clancy military novels, Stephen Hunter action-mysteries, and men’s adventure paperbacks, Unintended Consequences is full of “gun and gear nerd” content: African safaris, long discussions about guns, loads, long range shooting, and plots that are structured around technical nuances. Taken purely as another book somewhere in that genre of “action thriller”, it’s a well written, long (863 pages), entertaining read with an ending written to please its intended audience.

If you search for the book on Amazon or Abebooks, they will tell you that it’s out of print. It’s not. Signed softcover copies are available from this website. A free PDF version is also available.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, and President Biden has chosen to use this day to attempt to turn the clock back to 1994, with a policy goal of putting the semiautomatic long gun and magazine capacity bans back in place, along with other restrictions that go beyond what was passed in 1994. The policies in the executive orders he has signed since taking power are implementing progressive, not centrist policies that will further divide the nation and outrage those now in the political minority.

During the past year, anti-government rioters and mobs have attacked government buildings in Portland, Seattle, Washington DC and other cities. Gun sales have hit unprecedented levels. Ammo is scarce and selling for 500% of pre COVID prices, when it can be found. The country is sharply divided, with more public figures calling for acts of revenge, cancellation, re-education, and other Orwellian measures against their political opponents. Government regulation of many aspects of our lives has increased because of the pandemic, with no specific end in sight. The positions and policies of the extreme Left are now the default for Big Tech, colleges, public schools, entertainment media, “mainstream” news, professional sports, Fortune 500 corporations, the Executive branch and the House of Representatives. Trust in government is at record low levels, and outrage builds as scandal after scandal results in no significant penalties for elites and high ranking government officials, regardless of political affiliation. Lower tier elites and other expendables are ruthlessly cancelled for WrongThink or WrongSpeak, with careers ruined, but those at the top face no consequences for any offense, from simple lies to corrupt acts for financial gain to decisions and statements that result in significant property losses and deaths (of property and lives of the non-elites).

In many ways the situation is far worse than what existed in the mid 1990’s, when John Ross wrote this, in the introduction to his book:

Today in America, honest, successful, talented, productive, motivated people are once again being stripped of their freedom and dignity and having their noses rubbed in it. The conflict has been building for over half a century, and once again warning flags are frantically waving while the instigators rush headlong toward the abyss, and their doom.

Should you read the book? It’s entertaining as clever escapist fantasy. It’s educational, teaching about the history of gun laws and technical details about many different rifles and machine guns. And I think that it’s also relevant to current events, as political discussion about gun rights may soon sound like a repeat of 1994.