CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Conservative "red states" that vote Republican have more guns and considerably more gun murders, suicides and accidental shootings, sociology researchers say.
Alaska and Deep South states suffer nearly 20 deaths per 100,000 people yearly. West Virginia ranks below them at 14 deaths, while the national average is around 10. But New York and New Jersey have just 5, and friendly Hawaii has a mere 2.6.
"The simple fact is, if you live in a red state, the odds of your children dying of gun violence is 75 percent higher than if you live in a blue state," Princeton neuroscientist Samuel Wang wrote. "It may help explain why people in red states want guns so much: It's dangerous to live in a red state. They've got all those guns."
University of Toronto sociologist Richard Florida -- founder of the theory that "creative class" people spur prosperity -- studied gun deaths and wrote in The Atlantic:
"We can distinguish blue from red states. Taking the voting patterns from the 2008 presidential election, we found a striking pattern: Firearm-related deaths were positively associated with states that voted for McCain, and negatively associated with states that voted for Obama. Although his association is likely to infuriate many people, the statistics are unmistakable. ...
"Firearm deaths were far less likely to occur in states with higher levels of college graduates and more 'creative class' jobs. Gun deaths were also less likely in states with higher levels of economic development and higher levels of happiness and wellbeing."
In other words, less-educated, lower-income, Republican-minded, less-urban states have more gun killings -- and West Virginia sadly ranks among them.
America's 2010 General Social Survey found that 50 percent of adult Republicans own guns, but only 22 percent of adult Democrats. That's a stunning gap.
Worse, America has vastly more guns than other advanced societies, and vastly more gun deaths. The San Jose Mercury News wrote: "Today, we have 5 percent of the world's population and 50 percent of its guns. That is insane."
Charleston business writer Ken Silverstein, son of former Kanawha County Commissioner Robert Silverstein, wrote in the latest Forbes magazine that the famed "Sullivan Principles" created by another Charleston native can help reduce America's gun danger.
The late Rev. Leon Sullivan -- for whom a Charleston street is named -- established a voluntary rule by which corporations, pension funds and other mass investors withdrew their money from firms that did business with racist South Africa. Silverstein urges large entities likewise to divest their holdings in gun companies.
We can't guess how the current Washington showdown over mass-murder weapons will turn out. We aren't sure whether more gun control laws would make Americans safe from the 300 million weapons at large in this society. Many reports say the worst danger isn't from law-abiding owners, but from armed thugs and psychotics.
As we've said before, the best cure for America's terrible gun death rate may be metal scanners that would enable police to spot pistols hidden among people on streets and in arenas. Packers without permits could be swiftly disarmed and jailed.