Since news is relatively scarce, I’m going to start a recurring feature sharing things I’ve come to believe over the past decade. Thinking some more I realized how much my post the other day didn’t really include. Even if there’s no news I can probably think up something every couple of days for a while to fill space. I’ll start with a topic, then opine. Now, what I opine about in these might be bullshit, but it’s bullshit I think about. By all means, if you think I’m wrong, argue.
Today I’m going to talk about how we ended up with much of our current gun control. I don’t mean how we ended up with them politically. How we ended up with them politically is we lost the battle against the Gun Control Act and Brady Act. But there was a larger cultural framework that got us here.
There is a significant difference between rural and urban societies in terms of social trust. Social trust basically means whether you believe in “the honesty, integrity and reliability of others.” Rural populations have higher levels of social trust than urban populations. It’s been shown that rapid urbanization lowers levels of trust, and the United States experienced a significant urbanization, especially in the three decades that followed the Second World War. Moreover that urbanization coincided with a great increase in mobility.
As a society urbanizes and becomes more mobile, in high-trust societies like our own, there’s a tendency to formalize mechanisms of trust. In a non-urbanized society, or even in an urbanized but largely sedentary society, I know not to hire Joe because it is well known that Joe is lazy, his family is lazy, and generally no good. In an urban and mobile society, a process like hiring becomes more formalized. Joe Smith presents a resume. Maybe fills out a job application. He’ll be interviewed. Someone will ask for and check references, etc.
In my opinion, most of the gun controls of the 1960s up until the Brady Act has been driven by the inclination of an urbanizing people to formalize mechanisms of social trust. Social trust in urban or mobile environments can’t come from the fact that you generally know the people around you. I also believe this is why urban populations are more accepting of big government, because it is seen as a necessary agent of building social trust. I’m not saying the gun control advocates who pushed these issues were motivated by promoting social trust. Any successful social movement will pick up on social trends and exploit them. The question is what resonates with ordinary people not engaged closely with your issue? Sometime in the 1990s, the gun control movement switched to exploiting cultural condescension as a social trend.
Polls show that social trust is on the way down. While I think this is bad, because societies with a low level of social trust don’t tend to work very well, I’m not sure it will result in more gun control. It may actually result in less, and people feel less secure. But I think a desire of people to preserve social trust in an urban and mobile society explains much of our current gun control regime. I’m not saying it’s right, or effective, but I am offering an explanation of why we’re here.