By Daniel Rigney
If you reside in one of the gun states (those with the highest per capita gun ownership), you’re probably living in North America’s red belt, a geopolitical formation in the shape of a long-barreled six-shooter aiming toward the sky, its barrel descending from the muzzle of Alaska through Canada’s conservative western provinces and continuing downward through the sparsely populated western states to Texas.
At about Dallas or Houston, the barrel joins the handle and the gun turns rightward through evangelical SEC country to South Carolina, birthplace of the Confederacy.
This gun-shaped formation is loaded with members and political supporters of the NRA.
Most of the American red states (and gun states) lie approximately along this formation. For the mathematically inclined, RB (red belt) = GB (gun belt) = WW + OC (Wild West plus Old Confederacy), give or take a state here or there.
It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the geography of gun deaths by state reflects the geography of gun ownership, and that these death rates tend to be highest in the politically conservative or libertarian (conservatarian) red states of the old South and West, and especially Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada (now a swing state), Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona and Alaska (the "A" states).
Critics of our relatively unregulated gun culture have generally sought legislative solutions to the problem of gun violence in the United States. But legalistic approaches have their limits. Foremost among these is that the U.S., with a gun population of more than 300 million nonmilitary firearms -- nearly one gun per person in the United States – will be awash in already-existing guns into the foreseeable future no matter what laws we pass.
To borrow a cowboy phrase, it’s a little late to be closing the gate when the horse is already out of the barn.
Better, perhaps, to complement legal advocacy with a 21st-century public campaign that shrouds the NRA and its political and cultural agents in memes that pointedly shame the gun culture’s worst excesses. And by that I don’t mean hunting.
A shaming campaign would not require the passage of a single law, though it would certainly not preclude legislative action. It could, however, pose some of the same risks that anyone faces in the exercise of constitutionally-protected free speech under the First Amendment (e.g., harassment, loss of friends, job, or worse), especially if you live in parts of the country where the second half of the Second Amendment is literal scripture, and seems crazily regarded by some as the centerpiece of the Constitution.
It won’t be easy to stand up to extreme gun culture in public or private encounters with people for whom happiness is a warm gun.
Shame campaigns have been used effectively, in tandem with legal sanctions, in efforts to curb smoking, drunk driving, and a host of other public health hazards. Yet we have barely begun to use the weapon of shame in meme campaigns against the worst excesses of the gun culture.
This is not a campaign against hunting or sport shooting, or against those with understandable personal security concerns. It is a campaign, already underway in many communities, against those (such as the NRA) who exploit these defensible practices by using them as memetic camouflage, behind which delusional individuals and groups accumulate arsenals of automatic and semi-automatic weapons designed for no other purpose than to kill and maim people.
The founders of our new republic could not possibly have foreseen, and would likely have been horrified by, the lethality of such weapons of mass destruction.
The NRA has waged an effective, destructive and industry-funded meme war for decades with slogans like these:
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
"I’ll give up this gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” [omitting the the Second Amendment’s founding premise : “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ….”]
Meme weapons like these deserve to be answered with countermemes:
“Guns don’t kill people. Gun nuts kill people.”
“I believe in the original intent of the Second Amendment -- the right of a well-regulated militia to keep and bear muskets.”
“The NRA is not a well-regulated militia."
"What kind of hunter needs a semi-automatic?"“You’re from where? Is that a gun state? Isn’t that in the gun belt?”
How far is too far in this meme war? Submitted for your consideration and comment ….I’m sorry, my kids can’t come over. Your house is a gun house.
For more on the gun culture from this author, see :Danagram