Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Sociologist Stanley Cohen theorized about "moral panics", and I think that Fairbanks might be in one right at this moment. The US House of Representatives introduced a bill that would strengthen existing gun control laws. The bill would require vendors at gun shows to conduct background checks like retail stores are currently required to do. The bill would also require gun owners to update their permits when they move. These two items seems reasonable to some Americans. In fact, I would predict that the majority of urban Americans would find these new restrictions to be reasonable. But not Alaskans.
Alaskans have a unique relationship to their guns. Perhaps it's because there are so many hunters here. Or perhaps it's because there are so many military folks here, both current members and retired. Or perhaps it's because of our frontier collective identity. In any case, as soon as anything is ever mentioned that hints "gun control", a significant portion of Alaskans freak out. Cohen would say it's a moral panic.
A moral panic can be said to exist when there is no logical or rational reason for so many people to be so worried about a social phenomenon. Back in the 1980s, a moral panic about kidnapped and exploited white children led to the famous milk carton pictures asking, "have you seen me?" In the 1970s, a moral panic broke out when white middle class college students started smoking marijuana. There are so many moral panics going on now that I've lost count. But this gun issue... now here's a moral panic that is unfolding right around us!
What do you think? You can read about it here: http://newsminer.com/news/2009/feb/10/fairbanks-group-says-no-gun-legislation/ There was also an earlier thread that was a response to a letter to the editor (referred to as a LTTE in blog talk). You can see that one here: http://newsminer.com/news/2009/feb/08/gun-rights-threat/
Posted by Sine Anahita at 12:34 PM