Blues and Guns

Via Instapundit comes an article in Slate which I find unintentionally hilarious. The really funny part occurs at the very end.

“Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but were too scared or embarrassed to try? Ask the Human Guinea Pig to do it for you.”

So what was the wild, dangerous thing that some reader sent the “Human Guinea Pig” out to do?

She went to fire a gun at a shooting range.

Nothing so reveals the red/blue divide so starkly as the blue-zoners’ prissy and often hysterical attitude towards guns. Reading this article is like watching the old movie where a city slicker tries to mount a horse at a dude ranch and ends up facing the wrong way. I find it uproariously funny that going to shoot a gun is the subject of breathless journalism. What’s up for next week, power drills?

For blue-zoners, in their dense urban cores, guns are exotic, dangerous and (apparently) sexy. For red-zoners, guns are tools and sporting gear. I grew up in a small rural community where every, and I do mean every, household had at least one firearm and everybody, even little old ladies, knew how to shoot. When I was in school, people often had rifles and shotguns in their vehicles on school grounds during hunting season. Nobody thought anything of it.

People from blue zones often have a perception of guns that borders on the clinically phobic. Once I while driving a rental car, I got a call from the rental agency asking if I could check if there was a gun left in the car by a police officer who drove the car before. I checked under the driver’s seat and there was a small-caliber automatic in an ankle holster. I confirmed the safety, popped the clip, checked for a chambered round and then carried the weapon to the front desk so they could pick it up. When I told a coworker who was from blue California what had happened, she freaked. She said she would have called the police to come get the weapon because handling guns was just too dangerous! I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had been shooting since I was five.

Red-zoners just can’t take blue-zoners seriously when they talk about guns because they come off as hysterical, pitchfork-waving lunatics. Their perception of the dangerousness of firearms is so over-the-top as to reduce their arguments to absurdity. They sound as credible as Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson describing the nightlife in San Francisco. Yet blue-zoners expect red-zoners to defer to them in political debates about guns and get angry and confused when they don’t. They can’t relate to the perspective of the red-zoners at all.

As with many issues, nobody is more provincial than the truly cosmopolitan. Tune in next week when Slate hires me to write 500 words on the thrills and chills of riding the subway.

5 thoughts on “Blues and Guns”

  1. Shannon — This “red stater” thought all this was too funny for words, too, until I remembered that riding a crime-infested subway really was more dangerous than using firearms. Hope you survive to write your Slate article!

    David N. St. John

  2. WARNING: GROSS OVERGENERALIZATION ALERT!!! This post contains many overgeneralizations which are nowhere near 100% true, but represent the underlying truth I’m attempting to get at.


    I think a lot of the disconnect comes from the fact that blue voters have very little familiarity or experience with guns — and what they *do* have comes from watching TV shows about gangs and drugs. Ask a blue voter what they think of when they think of guns, and they’re probably going to think of a drug dealer. Ask a red voter and they’re probably going to think of hunting. For the blue voter, their picture of a gun is far-off in the hands of someone else who’s a threat to them. For the red voter, their picture of a gun is in the hands of a buddy who enjoys the shooting range or hunting. So of course we don’t understand each other — we’re not even talking about the same thing when we’re talking about guns.

    My wife points out that this also applies in another context: when blue voters talk about businesses, they’re almost always referred to as faceless evil corporations. Starbucks, Microsoft, McDonalds, Halliburton… that’s what blue voters think businesses are, because that’s the businesses blue voters interact with on a regular basis. How can red voters possibly be pro-business? That’s like being pro-evil, right? (Aside: a friend of mine once said, it’s easy to be anti-war. It’s like being pro-kitten.) Well, for red voters, their picture of business is the corner store, or their buddy who owns the small trucking firm, or the restaurant where the same waitress has served them for 20 years. So of course they’re pro-business! The businesses they interact with have familiar faces of friends who’ve served you for as long as you can remember, while the businesses blue voters interact with have some college kid making minimum wage asking unenthusiastically if you’d like fries or an extra shot of mocha.

    Simply put, there’s a huge credibility gap there (and it goes the other direction when we’re talking about things like inner-city public schools.) Sometimes we’re trying to give an informed opinion about a reality we don’t have any experience of, and it makes us look like fools.

    Just one more example: not 5 minutes ago, a friend of mine told me we should have more troops in Afghanistan. I asked him if he knew how many were there. Nope — he guessed 10,000 but he had no real idea. I asked him if he had a number of troops in mind for how many he wanted. Nope — just “more than are there now.” I asked him if he knew what operations the troops should be performing. “Get Osama.” Well, yeah, but how? “I don’t know.” Exactly — he has an opinion about the troops in Afghanistan, but he has no experience of the reality surrounding the situation on the ground, so he has no credibility. People who have an opinion about what the public schools should do but haven’t stepped foot in a public school classroom in 20 years have the same lack of credibility (just FYI, I spend about 6 hours a week in the Seattle public schools as a math specialist.) And people who talk about guns who don’t know how to fire one have the same lack of credibility (just FYI, I’ve only ever once fired a gun, doing target practice with my grandpa when I was too young to be able to actually load it, so I don’t pretend to actually know anything about guns.)

    I guess… it’s kinda like the old Jack Chick tract about Dungeons & Dragons, where he’s like “D&D is evil and occultic and dangerous!” and it’s obvious he’s never played a game of D&D in his life, or even seen anyone play it.

    Maybe that’s the way to pitch this idea to blue state voters. Tell them how much they sound like Jack Chick talking about D&D when they talk about guns they’ve never even touched.

  3. I am a NRA instuctor in MA and I have found that her opinions of guns is pretty common in these here blue states. Especially with women.

    I have had several cases where blue state women find out that I am a firearms instructor and they are first incredulous, then contemptuous, then curious, and soon they are students.

    I think that they need a real human face on the sport before it starts to become less of a caricature. And once that happens, the inhibitions fall fast. Blue state women want to feel safe and self-sufficient and this is an empowering moment. As a liberal wife of a very conservative friend told him on their second date (when he offered to teach her about guns), “there is no power in NOT knowing how to do something”

  4. I also am an NRA instructor, and frequently teach women’s classes. About a third of my students have been raped, and are very serious indeed about learning. At work, I am surrounded by the South San Francisco set, who are universally appalled by guns – and think it actively virtuous both to know nothing about them, and to condemn me for knowing. When I begin talking to them about my experiences teaching women, there’s a certain ophidian savor to the situation; I feel like I’m dangling the apple in front of them. The basic conflict was mentioned by Brownmiller. As good liberals, we are supposed not to condemn, but to understand, our little rapist buddies, especially if of one of the oppressed races or classes. This is the source of their original horror; “he’s advocating … violence!” But you can see the light bulbs go on when I tell them of the woman learning to shoot lefthanded with a light pistol, because her right arm and her back had been broken by her husband. Some of my colleagues later, privately – NOT, in front of the group – call to see about instruction.

  5. “Sometimes we’re trying to give an informed opinion about a reality we don’t have any experience of, and it makes us look like fools.” Seems like common sense to me, but it’s not! How am I supposed to deal with people who are hell-bent against/for something they know nothing about?

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