When I was in college, the nation was divided by the Viet Nam war. The vast majority of the country was conservative, red, and pro-government. A small minority, primarily college students like me with long hair and in need of a bath, were liberal, blue, and anti-government. (Of course, back then, the concept of red and blue didn’t exist.) Today the nation is fairly evenly divided between red/blue, conservative/liberal but with the difference that today it is the conservatives, the reds, who are anti-government, while the liberals, the blues, are pro-government.
One of the fascinating things about this sea-change is the change in the media. The media used to be regarded as an autonomous watchdog, the entity that brought the harsh glare of truth to bear on government. The most notable example, of course, is the Washington Post breaking the story about Watergate, a story that eventually drove Nixon out of the White House and into retirement at San Clemente. Things have changed. Today, the only mainstream media entity to have covered the Fast and Furious debacle, to pick one example, was CBS, and they came late into the game. The story was broken by two conservative bloggers, David Codrea of www.waronguns.blogspot.com and Mike Vanderboegh of www.sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com and even after CBS picked it up, much of the rest of the mainstream media devoted their efforts to painting it as right-wing conservative hysteria. No one was killed because of Watergate; at least two Americans and countless hundreds or thousands (no one knows how many) of Mexicans have been killed because of a Department of Justice operation that violated international law, Mexican law, US Federal law, Arizona law, and Texas law, yet there is no moral outrage among the media.
Do you think I’m a wild-eyed and exaggerating conspiracy theorist in a tinfoil hat? Consider Guantanamo: it was the symbol of all that was evil about the Bush administration and it was decried in the press daily. Obama ran on a promise, among other promises, to close it. It is still in operation, but when was the last time the media said anything about it?
An interesting side effect of all this red/blue, liberal/conservative, us/them polarization that has been growing exponentially in America is the stance more and more conservative states, county sheriffs, and firearm or firearm-related manufactures are taking. Half a century ago, young left-wing hippies and a small number of liberal “extremists,” doctors, teachers, entertainers, writers, artists, and such, started holding anti-war demonstrations and burning their draft cards and railing against the “establishment,” by which they meant the government and everyone who supported it. Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, and so many others advocated some form of civil disobedience or resistance. Civil rights marches in the South were brutally broken up by police. In the North, the National Guard fired on and killed students at KentState, and Chicago Police, acting under orders from Mayor Richard Daley, beat up students protesting outside at the Democratic Convention, and roughed up reporters inside the convention.
Now the pendulum has swung to a side I thought I would never live to see. President Obama signed twenty-three executive orders designed around “common sense” new gun laws, and in response Texas, Wyoming, and most recently, Idaho promptly proposed legislation that would make it a crime in those states for any law enforcement officer to enforce new federal gun laws, statutes, rules, or regulations. Sheriffs and police chiefs in many cities and counties across the nation have also announced they will not enforce any further gun bans or regulations enacted by the federal government.
Today, California, Washington, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, and most notably New York and Connecticut, have all passed or proposed laws that would, by “grandfathering,” make law-abiding gun owners de facto felons, subject law-abiding citizens to confiscation of private property (sometimes with compensation, sometimes without), create registries of non-confiscated firearms, impose labyrinthine fees and restrictions, and subject firearm owners to warrant-less home “inspection” by law enforcement. In fact, the state of New York rushed their new and draconian laws through so quickly they inadvertently made illegal most of the firearms their own police carry. In response, over one hundred (last time I checked; the number was growing steadily) firearm manufacturing companies (I am including companies that make accessories and related items, such as magazines) have refused to sell their products to state or county law enforcement agencies where those same products are not also available to the civilian population.
The second amendment, the fourth, and the fifth all take a beating from these new laws, but putting Constitutional issues aside, it indicates clearly the great divide that exists in this country. I was reading about all this and I decided to explore correlations between political affiliation, gun laws, and financial solvency, and after wasting an inordinate amount of time cruising the highways and byways of the internet, this is what I found:
According to Forbes, the five states with the most severe economic troubles and debt are all blue states: Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California. The five states in the best economic condition are primarily red states: Utah, Nebraska, and Texas, along with two politically mixed states, Virginia and New Hampshire. Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California are also the five states with the most draconian, repressive, and constitutionally questionable gun laws in the nation. Utah, Nebraska, Texas, and New Hampshire, are rated by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as barbaric (my word, not theirs) with no gun laws worthy of the name, while Virginia gets a bad rating from them as one of the states with the weakest gun laws.
What can we deduce from all this? Damned if I know. But taking as a guide the quotation variously attributed to Mark Twain, or to Benjamin Disraeli, or to someone else entirely (“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”), we can say, speaking in broad and general terms, on average, Republicans with guns are richer than Democrats without guns, and this is a seriously divided country. And that’s about all one can deduce.
I also tried to correlate the relationship between gun laws and murders committed with guns on a per capita basis by state, but the FBI considers its data on a city basis, not state (that I could find) and beyond that there is so much conflicting information out there, and so many completely contradictory studies and statistics and maps and graphs and God knows what else that the task became overwhelming. However, one indisputable and terrifying fact did emerge: when it comes to either murder by a firearm, or murder by any means whatsoever, the hands-down leader of the list on a per capita basis, by an overwhelming margin, is not a state, but the District of Columbia, which is tied with Chicago as having the most restrictive and absurd gun laws anywhere in the country. Here, at least, we can make a logical and irrefutable deduction: governmental good intentions can kill.