Bleak

04.03.13

Surprise, Surprise: Gun Violence in Red States

Pooh-poh this if you like, since it comes from the Center for American Progress, but the group just released a big study showing that--across 10 measures like the number of firearms homicides, number of total firearm deaths (including accidents etc.), law enforcement agents killed by firearms, and so on--the deadliest states are those with the most lax gun laws.

The "top" 10: Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and Georgia.

Now I know conservatives are thinking: No way these places are deadlier than New York and other states with big cities that have very violent neighborhoods. But according to CAP, New York and New Jersey, for example, rank 46th and 47th in gun violence. The full "bottom" 10: Nebraska, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii. That's basically a combination of sparsely populated states and states with strong gun laws.

Does this check out with other information? Here's another study showing Louisiana as the "least peaceful" state in the country. Here's a third that also has Louisiana at the top (yes, I know that's mainly because of Nawlins), but also features largely Southern and Southwestern states as the most violent, with New York in the bottom half.

This will never change, unless gun laws undergo some kind of serious revolution, because obviously the people who live in these places accept these levels of violence. I think it's not merely that they are resistant to changing gun laws. There's some deeper thing about the relationship between violence and concepts like justice and fate. That is to say, for example, that I think cultural responses to a seven-year-old girl accidentally killing herself with her father's rifle are different in Georgia than they are in Connecticut.

I'm not saying Georgians wouldn't care. Obviously, they're human beings. But I am saying that they on some level would be more likely to accept that this is just how life goes sometimes. It's a fatalism about life that probably has to do with some combination of comparative lack of opportunity and religious attitudes (that is, matters are in the Lord's hands, etc.).

And by the way, if you haven't been checking Joe Nocera's blog (the NYT columnist), you may wish to do so. He's just listing gun violence reports from around the country. It's pretty chilling to read. There's also the Slate gun-death tally; 3,293 gun deaths since Newtown.