It’s Time to Take Up Arms

To attract more rural voters, progressives need to understand their relationship with guns

| November-December 2011

  • its-time-to-take-up-arms-sm.jpg

    Paul Hostetler /

  • its-time-to-take-up-arms-sm.jpg

Guns. You already know the right opinion to have on that topic, right? Well, maybe this is something you’ve not considered before: Guns are the biggest reason a good portion of country folks vote Republican, even when it may be the Democrats who best serve them in the end.

Until urban liberals understand the roots of this seeming contradiction, until they begin to actively grapple with how they’re perceived by rural moderates, this voting pattern will not change—and progressives will always struggle to hold on to power for any extended period of time.

Now, sit down and drink your tea. I’m not trying to change your opinion about guns in your own neighborhood—or about the National Rifle Association. And you can make all the laws you want. But you need to understand these basic facts:

Urban people are correct in believing that a gun is a good way to get mugged. Rural people are correct in believing that a gun is a good way to hunt down some food when they’re out of work and the kids are hungry.

That’s a simplified version of the situation, obviously. Yet feeding one’s family is a primal issue. And for many, guns are about protecting the family, not from the threat of crime, but from starving. (Or from the unspoken fear—passed down in your heritage—of starving.) If you have a hard time understanding such a perspective, think of people in your family who suffered during the Great Depression and how it affected them—and how it may still affect you. 

Starving gets in your bones. You pass it down to your kids and often they pass it down to their kids. Rural folks who may have always had “enough” still know deep down that any day, as the old saying goes, the creek can rise.

Carla Kelly
12/22/2011 7:01:13 AM

Just checking in--another rural-hippie, organic-gardening, tree-hugging, liberal-artist type with a license to carry. While I prefer a machete to hack my way if need be, we wouldn't be without the means to blow something apart if it were coming hard at us, or securing dinner in a pinch, or to safely put down a suffering beast or Big Brother if absolutely necessary. Lots of reasons to own guns; they're tools, like an ax or wrench or log splitter. They literally, and figuratively, keep the wolves at bay. But the GOP is no friend of mine.

12/21/2011 5:39:48 PM

O’Conner makes a good point about there being folks who politically might be more inclined to vote Democrat if they weren’t afraid of having their guns taken away. Some of those people use their guns for hunting, as O’Conner pointed out, but many of us keep, and intend to keep, guns for a couple other reasons, which are equally as valid as hunting—recreation and protection. I don’t hunt, but I’m a recreational shooter. I am also a strong and outspoken liberal, which isn’t a popular stance here in Alaska. I’ve voted democrat since 1953 when I gave a speech for Adalai Stevenson in a mock election debate in junior high. I keep voting democratic because other issues trump gun rights for me. That is, until the government makes any serious moves against gun rights. I have two shotguns for shooting sporting clays at the local gun club. It’s a sport like any other, except that is safer. No one slams into anyone else and gives them a concussion as happens regularly in football, basketball, and hockey. No one crashes into anyone else as they do in motor sports. Shooting is even less damaging to the body than bowling where one can rupture a spinal disk. Sporting clay shooting has got to be the safest sport around, as long as you wear ear protection. I also do target shooting of various guns. Again, extremely safe. You never saw a more serious and responsible set of folks than shooters. Never mind the images of idiots shooting up signs along the road from the back of a pick-up. Those people are breaking the law and should be prosecuted. Making my sporting clay shotgun illegal will not impact those idiots. They, like other criminals will get their guns illegally. I have two other guns, a small pistol I carry in my car for protection against car jacking and a 38 caliber revolver I pack when skiing or walking in the woods out back in case I meet a bear or moose. I don’t carry pepper spray because wind direction can alter its effectiveness. I hear people saying, we don’t want to go back to the wild west where everyone is packing and might makes right. However, just the opposite is true. If guns are illegal, only the criminals and cops will have them. Then for sure, might will be the determiner of right. The guys with the guns, the criminals, will rule especially when they have more powerful guns than the cops. And where will the regular citizen be? At the mercy of those two powers, hoping for the cop to win. Outlawing guns plays right into the hands of the criminal by rendering his prey defenseless. If there were more cops than crooks, and cops could be everywhere, that might work, but access to an officer of the law is not the same everywhere. Here in Alaska, where people are spread out over vast distances, cops are not as close as one might wish. People must look out for themselves. Actually, the inner city person has just as valid a claim for keeping a gun as protection against gang activity. People living in apartment houses with doormen or in gated communities need to understand that not everyone enjoys the same security they do. Many people own guns to protect against another threat. Presently, in the US, our government is seen by most of us to be a protector of our rights and not a threat, but the Jews in Germany and Poland probably didn’t see the day coming when they would need to protect themselves against their government. Perhaps far fewer Jews and others would have died if they had had weapons to fight back. So, while I see my gun as protection against criminals, I am also aware the day may come when our government, God forbid, becomes our oppressor instead of our protector. One more point. I’m tired of hearing, “But, guns kill!.” Think about it. People use guns to kill. I’ve never seen or heard of a gun jumping off its rack and shooting someone, and people kill with many other weapons that we make no attempt to outlaw. It was box cutters and airplanes that took down the World Trade Centers, not guns.

Rick Wallace
12/20/2011 11:53:16 PM

Please, enlighten us on what rurals are stating the NEED for assault weapons in the inner city. What a condescending prick.

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