Dangerous Books


Specializing in macho, cloak-and-dagger titles like Kill or Be Killed, Build Your Own AR-15, and The Layman's Guide to Electronic Eavesdropping, Paladin Press thrives on controversy. But even for Paladin, the week of April 19 was unusual, with legal trouble associated with two of its books making news on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the United States, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that said Paladin could be sued for aiding and abetting a triple homicide by publishing Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors. A hired killer who bought Hit Man in 1992 murdered three people a year later, following instructions from the book.

In England, Phillip Luty, author of Expedient Homemade Firearms: The 9MM Submachine Gun, was sentenced to four years in prison for carrying out the instructions in his own book. The Yorkshire Post reports that Luty, after making a submachine gun using readily available materials and tools, asked a photographer to take pictures of it for his book. The photographer turned him in.

Although he acknowledged that Luty did not plan to use the gun against anyone, the sentencing judge said, "The message must go to everyone that making weapons like this in this country is unlawful and will be severely punished." Noting that Luty's book and other Paladin titles can be ordered through the publisher's Web site (, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers told the Post: "We feel particularly strongly that the Internet is especially vulnerable to criminal abuse, and this is the kind of information we don't want available."