February 24, 2010

The many guns of urban America

God and guns keep us strong
That's what this country was founded on
Well we might as well give up and run
If we let them take our God and guns
-Lynyrd Skynyrd, "God and Guns"
As we have shown in earlier maps (here and here) guns have become a central fixture of the American landscape.

And often proponents of the Second Amendment are associated with a predominantly rural, religious and conservative population as exemplified by the above song lyric. Whether or not this is because rural Americans are 'bitter', the stereotype remains pervasive. However, when we map the number of user-generated Google Maps placemarks mentioning the word "gun", a much different pattern emerges.


Absolute Number of Guns in User-Generated Placemarks



Although the smaller dots peppered throughout the rural United States certainly show that guns maintain a presence in the rural landscape, the highest concentrations of guns in user-generated placemarks are undoubtedly found in the nation's urban centers.

Relative Specialization in Guns in User-Generated Placemarks


By focusing instead on those places with a higher-than-average number of placemarks with the word "gun", the concentration in urban areas becomes more obvious - rural areas are all but wiped off the map of indexed values. A plausible explanation would simply say that the prevalence of guns is more a function of population (more references to guns because there are more people) than of a stylized cultural trait.

Or could the differences in user-generated content been explained, at least in part, by a digital divide between urban and rural Americans? For example, rural Americans could simply be too busy actually using their guns to worry about adding user-generated placemarks to Google Maps? We should also note that the meaning of a reference to the word "gun" in a placemark is not straightforward. In other words, it could be a protest against guns or, alternatively, an affirmation of them.

Unfortunately, we end with an entirely new set of questions and are left clinging to conjecture, just as much of America remains clinging to their guns.

8 comments:

  1. Wow-all those guns - and that's just the ones we know about :o

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  2. Interesting, as always.

    I'm from Canada and definately notice a big gun presence in the U.S. when I visit. It's not that ya'll have more guns (at least per capita), in fact we have more (per capita) - but they don't have the same presence here. They are all locked up for hunting season.

    We just visited the Hoover Dam, for example, and were amused by the "no booze or guns allowed" sign at the entrance. We don't have any "leave your guns in your car" signs on any of our national monuments. That's just a no-brainer. Of course, we do have "no booze" signs.

    We were just in Vegas during a gun convention where we saw a lot of gun nuts -- not actual guns, but gun tee-shirts and signs and posters and just so many cultural references to guns. I think gun are very deeply imbedded in your culture.

    Just sayin'.

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  3. Reminded me of the intro of "Freakonomics' by Malcolm Gladwell..
    There are some very interesting questions raised in this post..

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  4. A favorite family member of mine always says "It's a good thing Jesus wasn't shot with a shotgun. The whole Christian world would be wearing shotguns around their necks."

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  5. I don't think the map is heavy enough in southern Missouri, heck every one I know owns a collection of bangers! This Ozarks farm chick just wanted to congratulate you on Blog of Note...WooHoo!

    From the hills and hollers of the Missouri Ponderosa, ya'll have a wonderful day!!!

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  6. I would suggest people in more conservative, rural areas simply aren't hip to Google maps.

    Also, a lot of these references may not be to real guns.

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  7. God and guns keep us strong
    That's what this country was founded on
    Well we might as well give up and run
    If we let them take our God and guns
    -Lynyrd Skynyrd, "God and Guns"

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  8. @corabella think about how funny it would be if jesus were killed with large rubber sex toys -- with christians wearing those around their necks.

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