Barack Obama's remarks to San Francisco supporters on all the various things that are the opiates of the masses in Pennsylvania reminded me that when I was about nine, just like the kid in the movie classic Christmas Story, I relentlessly nagged my parents into getting me a BB gun. But, living in a dense suburb, there really wasn't much to do with a BB gun, so before I could put my eye out with it, I was on to nagging for other toys. Around my 13th birthday, some friends talked me into trying golf at the tiny par-3 course a few blocks away, and I was instantly infatuated.
I suspect golf took the place in my life that hunting would have filled if I had grown up differently. Golf is a suburbanized form of hunting. You wander around a landscape using a long stick to violently project a pellet into the distance. There's a big overlap in the demographic among hunters and golfers — male and heterosexual — but golf tends to appeal more to the fastidious white collar class who shrink at the blood in bloodsports. We like to shoot birdies, but in the metaphorical sense that golf provides. (Let me be clear — I don't have any emotional or moral aversion toward killing animals. It's the gutting and cleaning of them after the fun part of shooting them that grosses me out.)
So, hunting has been in decline for a long time, with golf rising to replace it. (Obama, for example, is a slightly above average golfer, with a 16 handicap.) Now, golf is in decline, too, as the concept of "going outside" strikes the new generation as so Second Millennium. Why go outdoors when you can stay inside and shoot bad guys on your screen?
Still, while guys who like guns mostly like guns because they like guns, there is a functional dimension to the gun control debate that is omnipresent, but nobody wants to spell out: As I wrote in my Baby Gap article in 2004:
The endless gun-control brouhaha, which on the surface appears to be a bitter battle between liberal and conservative whites, also features a cryptic racial angle. What blue-region white liberals actually want is for the government to disarm the dangerous urban minorities that threaten their children’s safety. Red-region white conservatives, insulated by distance from the Crips and the Bloods, don’t care that white liberals’ kids are in peril. ...
White liberals, angered by white conservatives’ lack of racial solidarity with them, yet bereft of any vocabulary for expressing such a verboten concept, pretend that they need gun control to protect them from gun-crazy rural rednecks, such as the ones Michael Moore demonized in ”Bowling for Columbine,” thus further enraging red-region Republicans.
In sparsely populated Republican areas, where police response times are slow and the chances of drilling an innocent bystander are slim, guns make more sense for self-defense than in the cities and suburbs.
In contrast, in Britain, where there are fierce gun control laws, rural dwellers are constantly subjected to "Clockwork Orange"-style home invasions by urban criminals who drive out from the city. In contrast, due to gun ownership and, likely, the greater effectiveness of racial profiling in America, crime rates in the exurbs and rural areas tend to be very low. When Congressman Denny Hastert suddenly became Speaker of the House, and thus second in line of succession to the Presidency, the Secret Service came out to change the locks on his house in a far suburb of Chicago so nobody could let themselves in and steal national security documents. They discovered he didn't have any locks on his house.