Friday, February 1, 2013

More rural v. urban in the gun control debate

Like other journalists in recent days (read more here and here), Dan Frosch suggests a rural-urban divide on the issue of gun control in this story in today's New York Times.  The headline is "Some Sheriffs Object to Call for Tougher Gun Laws," and the gist of Frosch's spin on rural-urban difference regarding this very current issue follows:
Over the past several weeks, dozens of other sheriffs from across the country have reacted with similar public opposition to Mr. Obama’s call for stiffer gun laws, releasing a deluge of letters, position papers and statements laying out their arguments in stark terms. Their jurisdictions largely include rural areas, and stand in sharp contrast to those of urban police chiefs, who have historically supported tougher gun regulations. 
* * *  
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which generally supports changes in gun laws, said that because sheriffs are often in charge of local jails and deal with mentally ill inmates, they were also more likely to view mental health as the most pressing concern. 
Mr. Wexler, whose group researches law enforcement issues in major cities, said urban police chiefs had long been more receptive to gun control measures because they handled gun crime on an everyday basis.
Beyond these differences between what sheriffs see and do and what city police chiefs see and do, Frosch's story, dateline Denver, suggests that gun culture is just different in rural places.  He provides some colorful quotes from the sheriffs  of Weld and Larimer counties in Colorado.  

The former said,
I don’t plan on helping or assisting with any of the federal gun laws because I have the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution on my side. ... Let the federal government do their own dirty work.
The latter wrote in a post to his Facebook page,
As Sheriff, I will not enforce unconstitutional federal laws.
Oh, and there's a colorful photo of the Weld County sheriff, surrounded by men in--you guessed it--cowboy hats.

Yet its worth noting that both Weld County is part of the Combined Denver-Aurora-Boulder Metropolitan Statistical Area, and Larimer County is in the Fort Collins-Loveland Metropolitan Statistical Area.  The former is the ninth most populous county in the state, the latter the sixth most populous.  

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