Talking About Guns in Big City and Working Class Country Michigan

by Dante Chinni April 03, 2024

In a nation full of charged political issues, the debate over firearms and the Second Amendment holds an especially tense place in the American cultural conversation. As mass shootings continue at an unsettling rate, there are a lot of opinions about who owns guns in America, who should own guns, and how they should be regulated.

In 2023, the American Communities Project tested opinions on guns in our national survey with one agree/disagree statement: The right to own a firearm is central to what it means to be an American.

Nationally, the country was close to evenly divided on the question: 49% agreed. But there were wide differences in the ACP’s 15 community types. Only 30% agreed in the Big Cities. Meanwhile, in some community types, well over 50% agreed — 73% in the Aging Farmlands, 71% in the Evangelical Hubs, 68% in the Native American Lands, and 63% in Working Class Country.

To further explore the mindsets behind those opinions, we visited two very different communities in Michigan: Wayne County (the Big City home of 1.7 million people and Detroit) and Osceola County (a Working Class Country locale in the rural north with about 23,000 residents).

The video above shows what we heard. There was a lot of support for the Second Amendment, even in left-leaning, Big City Wayne. But there were also notable differences in the attitudes about the right to own a gun.

In Wayne, there was support for the right to own a firearm and there were gun owners, many of whom cited safety as a reason for support in a community where violent crime is often an issue. But there were also concerns. Multiple people said they both agreed and disagreed with the statement. Many held that the right to own a firearm was essential to being American because it is listed in the Bill of Rights, but there were also apprehensions among several interviewees that the Second Amendment was more something to be accepted and perhaps tolerated than it was to be celebrated. Several interviewees expressed a deep uneasiness.

In Osceola, there was a much fuller embrace of the right to own a gun. All those we interviewed said the right was central to being an American. Most everyone we spoke with, male and female, proudly said they owned a firearm and often carried. Some cited safety, but just as often there was no real reason given, and they noted that there didn’t need to be. It was their right. Guns run deep in the county’s culture. The town we visited, Reed City (pop. about 2,500), contains two gun shops and one gun/sportsman club.

Among Osceola residents, there also was a certain reticence to talk about their views, especially on camera. Many agreed to speak off the record or offered opinions one-on-one, but were not interested in sharing their thoughts on video.

Vol. 3 2020-2021

Deaths of Despair Across America

The American Communities Project is undertaking a 30-month study of Deaths of Despair in its 15 community types.

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