Map #5. The Southernization of America: Gun deaths per 100,000 people by state.
In few realms is the Southernization of America more apparent than when it comes to gun violence.
Guess what? If you live in the South, you’re not only more likely to not graduate high school, live in poverty, and give birth while still only a teenager, you’re also more likely to die from a gun-related injury. Whether you get shot by a white terrorist, a madman, or your own toddler, we have more gun deaths here in the U.S. than in any other industrialized nation. And within the U.S., the gun death rates in the South are high and the West’s are even higher. But every time we call for tougher gun safety laws in the wake of yet another massacre, tragic accidental shooting, or tragic on-purpose shooting, the NRA’s pro-gun crowd swoops in and starts howling about how our scary Kenyan Muslim President Barack Obama’s coming to take our guns.
But plenty of liberals and folks from the North also love their guns. Most of us aren’t “anti-gun” at all. We just want the kind of common-sense laws and regulations for owning and operating guns that we require for owning and operating other deadly machines: Namely our cars, SUVs, motorcycles and trucks. Also gun safety and gun culture don’t need to be at odds: People in the nation of Switzerland have long managed to enjoy a strong, safe and positive gun culture.
So what’s all the fuss about the Second Amendment and the “right to bear arms” all about anyway? Once again, it all boils down to the Southernization of America. Award-winning author and left-leaning talk show radio host Thom Hartmann did a little sleuthing and discovered that — surprise! — all that gun-loving blather goes back to slavery. Why? Because the Southern plantation owners needed their white neighbors’ help with putting down slave rebellions.
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.
And although U.S. gun owners come in all colors and political leanings, the link between white gun culture and racism persists to this very day. A 2013 paper published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) found that underlying racism among white gun owners — coupled with the Southernization of America has had a damaging effect on our nation’s gun policies.
Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in US whites. The findings help explain US whites’ paradoxical attitudes towards gun ownership and gun control. Such attitudes may adversely influence US gun control policy debates and decisions.
White gun culture, open carry “activists,” White terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Stand-Your-Ground vigilantes like George Zimmerman, and our nation’s brutal militarized police forces all combine to create a climate of terror designed to keep communities of color in “their place.” But these forces are always perfectly happy to turn on white people too, if they dare to challenge the natural order of things. Or, even worse, work side-by-side with blacks to fight injustice as they did during the Selma marches and during the 1877 St. Louis General Strike. Nor do these bullies always insist on using their guns: Beating, choking and lynching will do in a pinch.
The saddest thing for many gun enthusiasts is how the National Rifle Association (NRA) got co-opted into the Southernization of America. The NRA was founded by two Civil War Veterans from the Union side to encourage good marksmanship. They’d noticed their fellow Yanks were terrible shots compared with their Southern former opponents. The NRA has a long history of supporting civil rights and gun control. In fact, they even helped write gun laws for the feds until the 1980s. Alas, those days are gone.
Continues on the next page: Map #6. The Southernization of America: Teen Birth rates.