Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guns Are a Rural Thing

The fact is, guns are a rural thing, a relic of our past and a consequence of our wide open spaces. This is a problem because the United States is now an urban nation, with densely packed concentrations of people. Fully 81 percent of Americans live in urban areas. Most urban residents--whether in central cities or suburbs--think gun control is more important than gun rights, according to a Pew Research Center survey. This includes the 57 percent majority of central city residents and 50 percent of suburban residents. Only 38 percent of the residents of central cities and 46 percent of suburban residents think gun rights should trump gun control.

But rural America disagrees, and rural attitudes toward guns and gun control have prevailed. Among the 19 percent of Americans who live in rural areas, only 33 percent think it is more important to control guns and nearly two out of three--63 percent--think it is more important to protect their right to own a gun. And they do own guns: 65 percent of rural residents have a gun in their home versus 30 percent of suburban and 22 percent of central city residents, according to the 2001 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center.

So how come the rural fringe controls the nation's gun laws? One explanation is that our political system grants disproportionate power to the most sparsely populated (rural) states. Each state is allotted two senators regardless of population size. So, for example, a resident of the most rural state (Maine) has 28 times the political power in the Senate as a resident of the most urban state (California). This may be why rural America gets to call the shots in the gun control debate.

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