Guns & City vs. Country

The gun debate in the US is frustrating to watch. Conservatives, often living in the country, think guns should be completely unregulated. Meanwhile, city liberals think guns should be eliminated for anyone except the police.

Well, that’s how it’s often framed. And there are those these pundits. But I think there are more sane folks on both sides than the typical news steam lets on. Controversy attracts, and more viewers/readers means more advertising dollars.

But for those who can’t see the opposing viewpoint, I want to look at city vs. country cultures for guns.

In the City

Why do people get guns in the city? Well, usually they argue they need a gun for protection. I am wary of this; I live in the city and I’m wary of owning a gun:

  • There are houses all around. There’s nowhere to shoot a gun safely.
  • If someone breaks into my house, if I miss a shot at the burglar, I’m going to put a bullet in my neighbor’s house—or my neighbor.
  • Although I’m annoyed by the squirrels that get into my raspberry patch, shooting them isn’t viable. I’ll end up hitting the neighbor’s car, house, shed, or the neighbor if she’s out there gardening on her side of the fence.
  • There’s nowhere to practice unless I want to drive to a gun range out in the 'burbs. That’s a significant time investment, so I don’t do it. Which means when I’m under pressure, I’m not going to be properly prepared to handle my gun.
  • If I had kids, they wouldn’t have proper gun experience because they wouldn’t have a chance to learn from me, because I have more shit to do than go to the gun range.
  • If there’s an emergency, I can call 911 and police will be here in minutes.

In the Country

Let’s compare city gun owners to country gun owners:

  • Houses are further apart.
  • Country folk have larger gardens or even crops proper, and a wider range of critters that get into them: deer, bears, rabbits, woodchucks and more. And if there’s livestock, add foxes, coyotes, neighbor’s dogs and birds of prey. It’s more reasonable to defend one’s crops when there’s less risk of collateral damage or inadvertent casualties.
  • More country folk hunt.
  • Country folks go to the range, or even just go target practicing “up the dry dam” (or whatever their local unofficial range is), or even in someone’s back yard as an occasional social activity.
  • Because there’s a culture of guns as part of day-to-day life in the country, kids can learn gun safety and respect as they grow up—a contrast to the tool-that-only-kills-your-enemies that they see (and the only thing city kids see) in movies.
  • If there’s an emergency, it may be a while between calling 911 and police arriving.
  • Thus, upon a break-in to a country house, the resident is more likely to need to deal with it on their own.
  • Since country folk are more regularly using guns, they are less likely to make stupid mistakes under pressure. They will handle their gun properly, without fumbling or hurting themselves or someone inadvertently.
  • If they do need to shoot in defense, they are likely to be more accurate, and less likely to hit unintended victims.

Gun Attitudes

Already, you can see very different attitudes on gun ownership for city vs. country folk. I realize there are some exceptions: people in the country who don’t hunt, don’t go to the range, have little experience. Should they have a gun? While I don’t think there’s a way to legally restrict them from getting a gun, I’d hope they’d have the sense not to get one.

On the flipside, someone from the city who regularly goes out to the range and goes hunting? Yes, as long as they’re taking appropriate precautions—keeping their gun in a proper locking cabinet and/or having a trigger lock when not in use.

Guns are dangerous in the same way cars are dangerous. Could I cause mayhem and death with my little 2,600 pound, 200HP gasoline-powered machine? Sure, it could be quite the killing machine if used as one. But we don’t think of cars that way; we think of them as transportation tools. When they do kill people, we write it off as an “accident.”

I believe that city folks, when thinking about guns, think foremost guns are for killing. Action films, crime dramas, and the news cycle leads city folks to think of their use on people first. Who has guns? Bad people, criminals. When is someone hurt by a gun? Anytime someone uses one.

Country folk think don’t think this; they think of the gun as a tool, like the car. Sure, it could be used violently, but you’re not supposed to do that. Guns are for hunting, protecting your house, family, or property. Who has guns? Everyone. When it someone hurt by a gun? Rarely, at best; when they are, it’s either because someone rightfully defended what is theirs, or a tragic accident.

Because of this discrepancy, I think country folk write off gun deaths the same way we all write off highway deaths—as accidents. But city residents think of gun deaths as a near-inevitable consequence of gun ownership, leading to the idea of regulating guns.

Gun Control Attitudes

The fighting over gun control comes from the ideologues on both sides, who, because of the city/country divide, don’t have a chance to interact with the other side and therefore can’t imaging a position other than their own.

County gun proponents think city attitudes to regulate guns are an attempt to take their guns, a necessary tool of life in the county. They assume everyone is like them, with familiarity and frequent experience handling guns, and thus is properly prepared and qualified to use one. They cannot see that a gun is not a useful tool in the city; that it’s like handing the keys to your 16-year-old who has never driven before and saying, “Go, have a good time.”

On the flipside, gun control advocates in the city usually don’t understand the needs of a gun in the country. Raised on Disney bullshit where animals are friends, not food, they think if you’re nice to a bear, maybe offer it some food, it’ll be your friend. Consequently, recognizing that a gun isn’t a good thing for them, they blindly apply their assumptions to the country.

Common ground?

So is there some middle ground we can find? I hope so, but it’s elusive.

Drivers are licensed. Why not gun owners?

As discussed earlier, a car used malevolently could be a potent weapon. But a car simply used recklessly can be plenty dangerous as well. Thus, we have a licensing system to ensure that drivers are properly qualified: that they are both responsible and competent to drive.

Age requirements are generally about responsibility. We don’t given licenses or learning permits before they are likely to take to heart some responsibility for driving carefully. Driving school/classes are meant to convey both skills and to import the responsibilities of the road to new drivers. Still, testing focuses mostly on competency: while rules vary state by state, at a minimum getting a driver’s license requires passing a written test demonstrating understanding of the rules, and then a road test that demonstrates one’s practical handling of a vehicle on the road. It’s hard to create a test for level of responsibility.

A licensing process similar to this makes sense to me, although it would mean another bureaucracy. In practice, it seems like licensing is at present attached to hunting licenses rather than gun ownership licenses. Depending on locality, some hunting licenses already require hunters to attend gun safety classes where they are taught principles of responsible gun ownership and use.

On the flipside, I foresee gun-hostile state governments using such licensing to severely restrict getting a gun. If we could expect all governments to create a reasonable system, I’d say licensing would be the Right Thing. However, since I don’t trust this precondition to be respected, licensing ownership may not be viable.

We should keep guns out of crazy people’s hands

There is mental illness in the world. Simply put, some people shouldn’t have guns, permanently or temporarily. Some background checks to make sure a gun buyer doesn’t have a history of schizophrenia, for example, are a good idea.

Other times, life events trigger people. Someone’s marriage is breaking up, or they just lost their jobs—if depression gets to them, a gun provides a method of suicide; if instead they are angry, they may seek to exact revenge. A cooling off period before getting a gun, or during which weapons are taken away, would seem prudent. But too many gun people worry this would be abused, a way to have their guns taken away by a rogue government.

And what if the government does go crazy?

Just this past week, as I write this, some insurrectionist trumpnuts schemed to kidnap the Michigan governor because they don’t like her coronavirus handling. These morons don’t seem to realize COVID spreads like kudzu and that there are good reasons for trying to keep it down.

Meanwhile, Trump is rigging the system so he can declare voter fraud if it looks like a Dem victory. I fear his base is prepared to go to arms and overturn the election if they don’t like the outcome.

The liberal take on this? This is why we need gun control.

Motherfuckers, have you ever watched the newsfeeds from some bombed-out country? The people living squalor, in bombed out cities under Taliban or ISIS rule, don’t do it because they want to. They’d rather have a proper, fair, democratic government. But, especially if they have families, they are willing to comply to survive rather than stand up and fight, which would be a massacre without guns.

When there’s a revolution, the people with the guns win. Exceptions like Ghandi in India are rare, and besides, thinking it was perfectly peaceful is revisionist.

It may very well be that 3 weeks from the day I write this, “What if the government goes crazy?” won’t be an academic question. Years of conspiracy mongering, paranoia and misunderstood regulation have bred a whole sect that is prepared to start another civil war because they think we need one to protect democracy. Different, and scarier, are the nuts who are ready to start a civil war because they think they’ll be able to get their way. I fear they will succeed.

Guns are a tool of power

Guns are a tool for protecting livestock, crops, and family, but they are also an important tool for imposing our will on others. A gun literally puts the power of life and death into the hands of the one holding it.

As we all know from the platitudes of Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.

Dictators are happy to do that for their own interests. It’s a rare day that people impose their will to instill democracy, but it has happened and the freedom we enjoy in the United States is a result of that fluke.

But now, liberals take democracy for granted; they believe it can be negotiated with words and pleasantries. If there is fighting to be done, that’s why we have police and the military. They have forgotten it requires a personal stake, and ignore the possibility that those that should protect it for all, will instead take power for themselves. Too many liberals do not acknowledge their responsibility to fight for and protect liberty.

Meanwhile, the trumpnuts disregard their hero’s continual lies, fearmongering, abuses of power and undermining of our democracy. They will allow him to steal our liberties, as long as they think it’ll only affect liberals' liberties. They are selling out a fundamental value of our country for the sake of winning a few arguments about how to best administrate it.

And the Qanon conspiracists are busy following an imaginary Internet hero, ignoring their responsibility to validate fact from fiction even long after their own members have confirmed there’s no basement in the pizza joint they allege is home to a child sex ring, and the rest of the plot keeps getting more and more implausibly complex and twisted to fit the events of history as time passes.

The US government is set up with checks and balances, and one of the checks is the second amendment and the right—nay, the responsibility—of the people to overthrow the government if it goes wrong. But it’s not a responsibility that should be taken lightly or rashly, and unfortunately, in present day nobody is taking this responsibility seriously. Liberals abdicate it despite the looming threats. Trumpnuts shun the responsibility of putting the good of the country first. Qanon conspiracists shun their responsibility to take knowledge seriously.

The nuts have guns, most liberals don’t. Few take responsibility. This ends poorly.

I worry that soon we’ll be living in squalor in decaying cities, under trumpnut rule, complying with their demands so we can survive because we’ll have no way to stand up and fight, because it’d just be a massacre anyway.

I hope there’s a large, silent majority of moderates who are willing to stand up, because if there’s not, the United States' future may be very bleak.