Numbers tell stories. Based on statistics from 2010, 24/7 Wall St. ranked Missouri eighth for overall gun violence. Missouri had 14 gun injury deaths per each 100,000 people – only 11 states had a higher rate: Louisiana (19.2); Alabama (16.2); Mississippi (16.1); Montana (15.4); Wyoming (15.1); New Mexico (14.9); Nevada (14.5);Arizona (14.6); Arkansas and Oklahoma (14.4); West Virginia (14.1).
The story these numbers tell isn’t surprising. Almost all of these states are poor, Southern or Western and deep red or getting redder. Missouri isn’t quite as poor or – maybe – as red as some, but given the inclinations of the Republicans who run our legislature, we’ll soon be charter members of the hard-scrabble, hand-to-mouth, red-state contingent. (You want to see what red-state economic theory does in action, read abut the Kansas experiment – which our own GOPers are eager to emulate).
This is true when it comes to rational gun policy as well. Like Missouri, none of the states listed above require permits to purchase handguns or, for that matter, most other types of guns. In Missouri, under the rubric of an almost universally misunderstood 2nd amendment, the good ol’ boys in the state legislature take turns trying to see who can introduce the most extreme laws to deregulate gun ownership. Governor Jay Nixon just vetoed this year’s iteration, Senate Bill 656, which would have “forced Missouri cities to allow teenagers to carry loaded firearms in public, would have allowed school districts to arm teachers, and would have made it impossible for parents to find out if someone is carrying a concealed firearm in their children’s classrooms.”
The bill would also have denied local jurisdictions their current right to forbid open carry which, in the absence of local restrictions, is legal for those who hold a concealed carry permit. Gun religionists claim with – some justification – that a patchwork of local laws can lead to confusion, but more often they just repeat the 2nd amendment mantra and scoff at the fearful reaction that most sane people have when they see guns casually displayed in a commercial setting, often taking major umbrage at what they characterize as “the indoctrinated response in America” to notify the police when folks are scared. I suppose the unindoctrinated response to fear would be to pull out your own gun and start shooting. Somehow, it doesn’t strike me as preferable.
Just for funsies, take a look at this trio who were arrested in Cape Girardeau while wandering around a mall sporting holstered handguns. These folks look basically normal if a bit on the hard side and they may be pussycats once one gets to know them, but if I met any of them (including the baby gunsel) in the aisle of a local store with guns on their hips, I’d quickly go the other way and call the police asap. Better safe than sorry. I’ve seen Natural Born Killers – and those folks were downright pretty. There’s something about a carrying a gun in a non-threatening, non-sporting environment that brands the mildest seeming folks as paranoid fools.
You want to get an idea about who belongs to the Missouri gun culture, just note the reaction of some citizens of Lake Ozark when the city recently decided to prohibit open carry in the interest of not scaring away tourists, the main source of local prosperity:
The city should not be treading on the Second Amendment for any reason, said Alderwoman Betsey Browning, who voted against the ordinance. “There are bad people in the world, and by golly if I need a gun I’m going to have a firearm at my side or in my purse,” Browning said. “I’m absolutely against this.”Audience member Gail Maeder was even more direct.
“Just because somebody felt scared is not a good enough reason to pass an ordinance that violates the Second Amendment,” she said.
Now I would be interested in just how Alderwoman Browning knows that she is surrounded by so many bad people that she has to go armed, what criteria she employs to recognize them so that she can shoot them, and when or if she ever actually encounters an aggressive bad person, I wonder whether said bad person’s badness will have been enhanced by the ready availability of guns just like that carried by the alderwoman. I seem to read of a constant stream of innocent people who are mistakenly shot when people like Alderwoman Browning get themselves worked up (see, for instance, here). And guess what else happens in states with lots of guns:
People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns. On average, states with the highest gun levels had nine times the rate of unintentional firearms deaths compared to states with the lowest gun levels.
Makes you feel real secure knowing that Alderwoman Browning has that gun, doesn’t it?
I ask you, do you want these folks, with their rigid, comic-strip understanding of the 2nd amendment coupled with their total lack of respect for others running around playing at being tough guys and gals in public places, not to mention dictating decisions about perfectly legal, 2nd amendment-compatible restrictions of gun ownership? Thanks to Governor Nixon, and barring an override of his veto, we have staved off the flood of gun craziness for one more year – or to put it more accurately, it won’t get any crazier than it is now – but unless something changes in Jefferson City, that may not continue to be the case and Missourians could find themselves regularly taking shelter from myriad shoot-outs of the O.K. Corral variety.