Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Opinion

Column: Guns and libraries

Just last week, a Pew Research Center survey found that liberals are much more attached to their museums than conservatives are: 73 percent of "consistently liberal" Americans say that being near museums and theaters is an important factor in choosing where to live. Only 23 percent of consistently conservative Americans say the same.

Considering that divide, I thought it might be useful to map museums and libraries against an institution that conservatives might be more fond of: gun stores.

Keep in mind that these two quantities aren't diametrically opposed — there's no reason you can't be a fan of both guns and museums (there is in fact a National Firearms Museum run by the NRA in Fairfax, Va.). But viewed in relation to each other, guns and museums give some sense of a community's values. Guns are king in the lower Midwest and the upper South. The strongest concentration of gun-heavy counties is in Missouri, where gun stores outnumber museums and libraries in all but six of the state's 114 counties. Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas stand out for their concentration of gun stores, as does Oklahoma.

But the most gun-heavy county is in Oregon. Gun stores outnumber museums and libraries by nearly 7-to-1 in Deschutes County, Ore., giving it the most lopsided ratio in favor of gun stores among counties with at least 10 of each. Eight of the top 25 gun-happy counties are in the Lone Star state — don't mess with Texas!

Vermont presents an interesting case. Its gun laws are among the most lax in the nation, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But gun shops are scare relative to museums and libraries in the state, which likely has something to the state's unique gun culture — "strong, safe and unregulated," according to the Burlington Free Press. Vermont's governor, Peter Shumlin, said Vermonters view guns as "tools" to manage natural resources, rather than "weapons of war."

Christopher Ingraham is a data journalist focusing primarily on issues of politics, policy and economics. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center. Read his complete blog post, including more maps, at www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog.

© 2014 Washington Post

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