I recently read, thanks to sometime blogger here (and full time smartest guy in the room) Tyler Evilsizer this very interesting article – another effort to divide the US into ‘cultural nations’, rather well done, and in this case focused on differing reactions to and policies regarding gun violence.
In many ways it is a sound article – correctly pointing out that violence seems to be more prevalent in the South, and attributing that violence to a long-standing culture of personal honor and self-reliant violence, which minimized the role of legitimate government force in favor of personal strength.
The article is largely accurate, I believe, in its depiction of the Urban Northeast and Southeast sections of the country and their differing views on stand your ground, gun control, and capital punishment. Where the article falls apart is indicative of the greater failure of gun control proponents to understand the problem of gun violence and the opposition to their solutions. The first error is to open the article with the shootings in Connecticut and other recent mass shootings. Mass shootings are a terrible reason to attempt to enforce gun control – they happen randomly, seemingly without regard for the policies of the States (or even countries) in which they occur. Moreover, they are often performed with rifles, and so gun control urged on by mass shootings ends up focusing on weapons that are statistically highly unlikely to be used in a murder – the number of people in the US killed by rifles is similar to the number of people in the US killed by knives, while handguns continue to exact a terrible toll in the US.
Secondly, while noting the relative violence of the South compared to the Northeast, little is said about the fact that the other major block of low-murder states is Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, or the fact that the safest of the New England states (New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine) also have very light regulation of firearms.
So perhaps a Southern toleration and embrace of violence is the cause of high murder rates there and the source of much frustration for gun control advocates. But the conclusion reached by some, generally in liberal, urban areas, that rural gun control opponents are either delusional or somehow culturally drawn to violence is based largely on a misunderstanding of rural situations and a conflation of different circumstances. The reason the rural West and rural New England haven’t embraced gun control and are unenthusiastic about Federal measures to do the same is that, first, gun crime in those areas is far less frequent than even in relatively safe urban areas, and second, rational gun control options so often come up in response to largely unpreventable (by means of gun control) tragedies that bear little resemblance the daily murders that continue to plague the United States. That’s not to say there aren’t real problems that need to be addressed – rifle smuggling to Mexico and the ease with which illegal handguns enter urban areas are two that come to mind – but achieving some level of unity that allows for coordinated federal action is going to take more inter-regional understanding that currently is being demonstrated.