I had no idea this sort of thing even existed:
I’m reminded of our discussion of Charles Murray’s recent book on social divisions among Americans. Murray talked about differences between upper and lower class, but I thought he was really talking more about differences between liberals and conservatives among the elite. (More discussion here.)
In this particular case, Murray’s story about irresponsible elites seems to fit pretty well. At the elite level, you have well-connected D.C. gun lobbyists opposing any restrictions on personal weapons. As Murray might put it, the elites (Phil Spector aside) may be able to handle their guns, but some lower-class Americans cannot—they do things like give real rifles to 5-year-olds (!). As Murray writes, it’s a combination of cultural ignorance and a permissive ideology: I assume the senators who voted against the recent gun control bill wouldn’t give live weapons to their kids (or live in neighborhoods in which kids have access to guns at home), but they don’t feel right about restricting the rights of others to do so.
P.S. After reading some comments, I thought it might help to clarify two points.
First, my main point here was, as is noted in the title of the post, this is a culture clash. In some parts of the country, people are giving real live guns to their 5-year-olds and teaching them the four rules of gun safety. Here where I live, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a company that sold children’s guns with cute little cartoon characters.
Second, I don’t mean to overrate Charles Murray’s ideas, which are more of a set of interesting speculations than an all-encompassing theory. (This is fine, speculations are important, I’m not knocking Murray here.) For example, consider elites’ reactions to proposed laws restricting cigarette smoking. If a group of elite Americans support such a law, Murray can argue that this represents their lack of understanding of ordinary American culture: elites mostly don’t smoke, and they can’t understand people who do. Conversely, if a group of elites oppose an anti-smoking law, Murray can argue that these elites are supporting a permissive, dangerous ideology that they do not themselves believe for their own lives. This is the tension that I noted in my review of Murray’s book, where elites are alternately urged to show understanding for the unfamiliar lifestyles of lower-class Americans, and to show moral leadership by criticizing the mistaken lifestyle choices of such people. Murray’s reasoning goes in these two opposite directions, so when I say that Murray’s story fits pretty well in this example, I can only really be referring to part of Murray’s argument, not all of it.