Centers of Gravity

Rightwingprof brought up the issue of urbanization and how it affects Pennsylvania in one of the comments. I thought I’d expand on the issue a bit in terms of how it relates to gun policy in the commonwealth.

According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania:

  • 2.8 million Pennsylvanians live in rural municipalities, or 24% of the population
  • 64% of municipalities in Pennsylvania are rural.

No doubt that Pennsylvania is already heavy urbanized and suburbanized, but we’ve still maintained pro-gun policies. There is a reason for this.
The political center of gravity of the gun control movement in Pennsylvania is unquestionably Philadelphia. There might be some sympathies for it in some of the other cities, but in any movement you have to worry about it’s center of gravity. Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania’s other big city, and tends not to be as solidly anti-gun. The suburbs of Philadelphia have never been, and still aren’t solidly anti-gun. There are a lot of pro-gun legislators in the suburban districts, and even a few in Philadelphia.

The real danger is rooted in the suburbs going Democratic and becoming more solidly anti-gun, and following the lead of the city. My district recently switched from a pro-gun Republican to a pro-gun Democrat, so we’re safe in that vain, but I also live in the most pro-gun suburban county.

One of the things that really worries me is Delaware County, which is where I grew up. My state legislator there, Tom Gannon, was a long time NRA A rated politician. This past election year he was pushing an anti-gun bill. Granted it was less onerous than a lot of other measures pushed, but it still had the potential to penalize honest gun owners. He still lost his seat to an anti-gun Democrat. Delaware County is traditionally solidly Republican, but that’s changing, and it’s the fifth most populous county in the commonwealth. Reasonably pro-gun Curt Weldon, who represented most of Delaware County and some of Chester County, was also defeated by rabidly anti-gun Joe Sestak.

Is our state making the slow march toward being an anti-gun state? It all depends on whether the anti-gun movement’s center of gravity can grow to encompass the suburban counties. Pennsylvania has 12.3 million residents, and Philadelphia and the suburban counties contain 3.85 million of those, which would be a formidable force in state politics if they all voted in a single block.

Philadelphia has been losing population rather rapidly though, but they are moving to the suburbs, and continuing to vote like Philadelphians. For at least the next decade, our gun rights are safe. Beyond that, I wouldn’t want to place any bets.

3 thoughts on “Centers of Gravity”

  1. That’s been happening all over the US for some time now. Northern Virginia and New Hampshire are good examples. It’s not happening in Indiana only because liberals don’t move to Indiana from adjacent areas. Chicagoans move west to the suburbs, not to Indiana (Lake County is more Illinois-like than the rest of the state only because they think of themselves as part of Chicago, always have). Louisville has been undergoing a fairly successful rejuvenation since the early 80s, and those that move, move east and south to the suburbs, not across the Ohio to Indiana. And other than Lake County (Gary), there really isn’t that much of an urban culture, even in Indianapolis. Indiana has a strong self-conception of a rural, agricultural state–Bloomington even has its own peculiar brand of moonbats as a result (the “redneck” for world peace and social justice variety).

    The most striking thing for me the first time I drove out here was how empty Pennsylvania was. In Indiana, there’s a little burg every five miles or so, no matter where you are, but you can go more than twenty miles between exits on the Turnpike here. Over half of my students back at IU were from towns of 2000 people or less.

  2. See, this always seems so bizarre to me since SWPA is fairly democratic AND fairly pro-gun.

    Although to some extent some of us are Democrates because we like to have a say in who is elected to office since in some towns whoever wins the Democratic Primary wins the final election. And some people run as Democrats for the same reason.

    When I sent e-mail to my state rep, Peter Daley about HB760 he responded that he was opposed to the bill, he had asked others to vote against it and that it was down to 2 sponsers (AFTER which I recieved the 2nd e-mail from the NRA-ILA about it *grins* Although that one was remarkable similar to the one sent on the 4th, so it may have been an accidental re-post)


    YMMV of course.

  3. PA suburbs have traditionally been “register Republican if you want to vote” for the same reason. It changes out west in weird ways, it seems. Democrats around here send to be very progressive and anti-gun.

    Culturally, Philadelphia is part of the population poop stain that extends from Boston to DC. West of route 202, it all changes.

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