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.