Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So much news about guns and the right to have them, but all in the context of cities

"Gun culture" comes up in a fair amount of the academic literature I read regarding crime in the rural United States. Some criminologists attribute certain aspects of rural crime and the particular difficulties facing rural law enforcement officers to widespread gun ownership by rural folks. Weisheit, Falcone and Wells acknowledge it in their book, Crime and Policing in Rural and Small Town America (2d ed. 2006). Neil Websdale also writes of the significance of Kentucky's gun culture to the phenomenon of rural domestic violence in his book, Rural Woman Battering and the Justice System.

With that fresh in my mind, it's been a bit odd to be so focused on cities in relation to guns in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller last week. The New York Times and NPR quickly followed up on the decision with stories about how gun laws in other cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco, were likely to be challenged soon. Richard Daley and Gavin Newsom, mayors of those cities, criticized Heller and defended their cities' laws.

So, where's that long-time association between the rural in all of this talk about guns and the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that individuals have the right to possess them? After all, isn't it mostly on pick up trucks in rural states that you see the bumper sticker, "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands"?

The reason this isn't a rural story is that rural state and local governments rarely impose gun restrictions. It would be political suicide to do so there. In short, there's nothing to litigate, no 2d Amendment dispute, in rural America. For now, Heller is irrelevant there, at least as a practical matter.

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