Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Re-thinking gun control, and acknowledging the rural link

In the days since the horrific elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, our nation seems to have gotten more serious about gun control than I can recall at any other time in my life.

Paul Krugman wrote about the shift in attitudes over the week-end, and I posted this about his column.  In short, Krugman suggested that, just as Presidential candidates no longer need to cultivate the votes of rural whites to get elected, those favoring gun control no longer need let rural whites stand in their way.  There just aren't enough of them to control the outcome of this debate.

Nicholas Kristof also wrote about a new push for gun control, and he, too, referenced the "rural."  
I grew up in a gun culture of rural Oregon, but I just don’t understand why so many people are averse to stricter controls.
Both of these NYT columnists are liberals (Krugman's column is even called "Conscience of a Liberal") so perhaps their stances should not surprise us.  Perhaps their explicit references to the rural, suggesting the alignment of rural people with the NRA and gun rights, are also to be expected.  As I documented extensively here, working class and rural folks are often seen as one in the same, and guns are associated with both.  

A post on the Caucus blog yesterday highlighted U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III's apparent change of position in the wake of the Connecticut shootings.  Manchin, of West Virginia, is an avid hunter with the NRA's seal of approval (an "A" rating), but he indicated on Monday that he supports re-evaluating gun control laws in the coming months.  "Everything should be on the table," Manchin said.

Manchin commented:
I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. ... I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about.
The Senator drew attention during his 2010 campaign with an ad that showed him firing a rifle at a piece of environmental legislation--and with his considerable efforts to distance himself from President Obama.

A story in today's New York Times features this lede:
Demonstrating rapidly shifting attitudes toward gun control in the aftermath of a massacre in a Connecticut school, many pro-gun Congressional Democrats — including Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a longstanding gun rights supporter — signaled an openness Monday to new restrictions on guns.  
It goes on to note Manchin's comments, but the story makes no explicit mention of the fact that that Manchin and Reid are both from states that are popularly thought of as rural.  Interestingly, though, West Virginia is much more rural as indicated by ecological definitions.  Using the U.S. Census Bureau's definition of rural (those living in population clusters of less than 2,500 and in open space), only 8.7% of Nevadans live in rural places while 69.9% of West Virginians do.  If you use 50,000 as the size of population cluster that differentiates between rural and urban, then 23.5% of Nevadans live in rural places, and an overwhelming 94.2% of West Virginians do.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The terrible events of recent do compel us to look for ways to prevent future mass shootings but the antigun hysteria seems to be misdirected. Attempt to block future sales of 30 rd magazines or stop the sales of AK-47/AR-15 type guns will likely not prevent further bloodshed.
The problem lies with the "Gun Free Zones", which are typically the target of choice for mass murderers. A brightly colored sign that says "Come and Shoot Me, I Wont Harm You" is too great an enticement for these monsters.
An armed individual would easily have prevented several of these massacres.
Too many guns isn't the problem....too few guns is.

Jasper, Ar