Why Gun Control is a “Fringe” Issue for Alaskans

Here, in remote Alaska, gun safes are furniture and guns and snowshoes are wall decorations.

living room

Cabin front room

Seems less populous states and more populous states have increasingly differing agendas these days, so it makes it difficult to see how most recent bills passed have any benefit to most people.

Here in Alaska, there is a large military population in the urban areas, and they tend to vote Republican. The villages and rural areas generally vote Democrat, so it’s the opposite of the trend in most states in the US.

Plus: Alaskan Democrats are something of a different breed.  The needs of the rural Alaskan are different than the urban Alaskan or typical American. Plus there are some things that are unique to nearly all Alaskans, Democrat or Republican. Or Libertarian.  Or Green Partier. Or Independent.

The Alaskan State Constitution is very different than the average State. Alaska residents own public lands. We, in essence, own our State. We used to have many safeguards of public lands. Small town folks (intermediate sized towns and coastal villages) tend to be very vocal here, but the big city votes steamroll most local initiatives. We have the longest coastline in the US, and no Coastal Management Program, no Coastal Protection Program…. the new Governor just closed down the State Coastal Management Program to help make it easier for big oil and gas exploration, to obtain permits without opposition. The voters tried, but couldn’t muster the votes to open it again.  Now it’s up to private, underfunded small-town watch groups that just don’t have the capability to protect or monitor most remote places like this.

QUIET REMOTE WINTER

Winter beach in front of the cabin

The majority of Alaskans just don’t seem so concerned about gun control

The most anti-gun populations in Alaska are urban areas, but these voters seem to be a small minority.

Municipalities, rural and State have somewhat distinct mutual interests and agendas, and these agendas can change quickly. Homer, Alaska went from primarily Democrat or almost 50/50 to now Republican these last several years. This can change quickly the other direction.

Erosion of rights seems inevitable but is a much larger concern at this rate

Laws that generally help the rich, harm the poor and middle class. Laws that support big business, harm individual rights. Some consider Federal, Prison, or Oil or Gas companies to mean “jobs,” and therefore, economic freedom. Others consider these types of jobs to mean crime, less attention to education and less private funding for schools (with more media attention and tax breaks for donations from large businesses in the area), cheap sprawl in all cases, more toxic pollution, and less individual freedoms.

Automatic Weapons are the Least of Alaska’s Problems

Unfortunately, like the U.S. at large, a majority of Alaskan voters never vote.

There are lots ( a very high incidence) of gun accidents in Alaska (often while hunting), and a negligible amount of rural accidents with automatic rifles. Automatic rifles are just not an issue here except for the random young military personnel wounding themselves when cleaning their M-16 just outside of Anchorage. There is little time for rural attention to “fringe” issues like accidental discharges or, “crazy incidences,” in town, when in the villages, the economies are such that if people don’t do some sort of subsistence hunting, fishing, gathering, or farming, it is difficult to make ends meet and possibly difficult to survive.

Rifles are everywhere during hunting season, and the concern is not about gun crimes but whether there will be enough food to survive the winter comfortably. So, in essence, seeing a rifle is seeing a way to obtain “food” for some, that may be less violent from the village perspective than the way similar types of “food” are procured by being fed antibiotics and meat products, and killed in slaughterhouses then dyed and shipped out at exorbitant prices.

Rifles in San Francisco

There are bigger cities that allow guns but just aren’t prepared for them. I have had new (bolt action slow firing) rifles (something that, for security reasons, obviously, they should keep behind a counter for pick-up, but shouldn’t have even left the plane) tossed onto a carousel during a layover in the San Francisco International Airport on the way to Alaska, and had to recheck them for the next flight. I was very lucky I caught that. [It was perfectly legal to have a rifle in San Francisco BTW.] Maybe they thought they were fishing poles. Airport Security certainly knows some things about bombs and pistols, but not everyone recognizes a rifle case.

The Second Amendment: How it’s Interpreted or How it’s Written

Seems everything to do with the interpretation of the Second Amendment has become very controversial these days. Maybe the interpretation of this should be up to individual states or municipalities, as it now seems to be up to the individual on many levels these days. But as a Constitutional Right, these are individual Inalienable Rights that can’t, in theory, be changed, no matter the interpretation by States, Governments, Municipalities, or Courts, so yes, a hot button issue to be sure that should perhaps have individual regional majority voter interpretations. Because, yes, this is our unique right to form a kooky-mooky fringe militia and legally arm that militia (and maybe buy some matching outfits):

“AMENDMENT II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Okay most of it makes sense, but what does, “well-regulated,” mean?

Poverty Doesn’t Allow the Luxury of Debate. This Gun Debate Just Proves Cities and Towns are Dangerous.

Well, Villagers could care less about militias (as far as I know), but their hearts are breaking from the tragic rates of First Alaskan village youth suicides. They don’t like losing rights, and they are certainly horrified that anyone would harm anyone, especially children or innocent ones, or that human beings are capable of going so insane as to harm each other so terribly with these mass killings in places that should be safe. They also don’t like to see erosion of rights. Or erosion and relocation of entire villages like what happened in Shishmaref:

From: http://www.thelastdaysofshishmaref.com/shishmaref3/cms/cms_module/index.php

Don’t get me wrong. There is crime in the village, and it’s not good crime (and this is precisely why the focus is village first for many who have relatives living in prisons nearby or across the State). However, the village conception that large cities and Western Societies are greedy, and competition driven places where people go insane, and how this makes more populated areas harmful or dangerous places to live, was already prevalent.

One of the first widely publicized school shootings was in Bethel, Alaska. For some that proved that smaller towns can be too large, and the bigger the group, the less the rights and less the humanity. So, it just illustrates further that cities are dangerous because they are always so expensive to visit, have such high crime rates (especially crimes against Alaska Natives), and are filled with crazy people who own guns for no reason except to harm other people and go hunting for fun once in a while.

Well, in the village, a gun is needed to live above the poverty line, because they depend on subsistence food sources, and sometimes need self-protection against bears, etc. Period. And should they fly to town and wait longer… and spend hundreds of dollars a day and be scrutinized more and wait longer in a dangerous, expensive place for Government approval to buy what is necessary for just living?

I don’t live in a village or a city. I live most of the year alone in remote Alaska. Vegetarian. Born and grew up here in Alaska too. Eating meat in no way makes anyone a, “real Alaskan.” (just saying.) There is some abundance of wildlife, so I like to bring my camera around. Not very good at this yet after three years. I also carry bear spray and a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .454 Casull revolver, for protection from bears and wolves, etc., and also have three dogs.

Here, in remote Alaska, far even from any village, keeping home and loved ones safe (generally from bear attack in summers and wolf attack in winters) means carrying a gun.

BEAR SPRAY AND GUN

Walking to the beach at dusk

bears on flats

Two bears on the beach in front of the cabin at dusk. Haven’t had problems with bears since I moved here, but it feels good to be prepared.

Had an encounter with a wolf at night recently right outside my cabin, when I was taking one of my dogs out. It was very large and very close, and being used to countless bears, I pulled out the bear spray, pointing it at the wolf, shaking the can and took a step back toward the door. He growled (barked? see article below… mine sure sounded like a growl) and yes, he was probably surprised like we were. He crouched down, and for a second I thought he was going to spring on us.

I didn’t have to use any pepper spray. The dog barked and the wolf sprinted away so fast, it was eerie. We lost sight of him so quickly, it was strange. Bear Dogs are bred to hunt wolves, but I am not and my dogs are not trained in wolf encounter etiquette. I don’t want to see anyone or anything harmed anyway, and it was dark. “The smart thing to do, if you feel an animal is responding to your presence, is to increase the distance to that animal.” Excellent advice. They also make discharging a jet of fine aerosolized pepper particles into a scared wolf’s face, sound kind of inhumane (yet strangely, brutally effective).

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/park-officials-looking-into-hiker-s-encounter-with-wolf/article_d7792b2f-c56f-5ee9-a173-60955d360864.html#ixzz2R3jsPfen

It’s Expensive to Live in Remote Alaska

The average Alaskan needs approximately $43K to eat and keep a roof over their heads, etc.

For me (living alone, not in a village or town or city), the cost of a one-way flight from Soldotna or Nikiski, the closest town across Cook Inlet, to land on the beach at my property is $650.00. This only holds a limited number of pounds of groceries, freight, etc. When I visit town, it costs $1300 just to go and return. I can save money with a smaller plane, and I do this in the winter, mostly because a small plane is the only kind of plane that can land there. Fuel, supplies, everything is shipped out on flights, and this adds to the cost of these items.

Alaska has many remote villages with between 20 to several hundred people. Shopping at the village store means a Coke for $5.00 and a gallon of milk for $13.00. Rural electricity, basic amenities, and transportation are extremely expensive. Though the average villager lives below the poverty line, they are not poor in some senses, and village poverty is a direct result of no jobs and an extremely high cost of living. In many villages schools end at Jr. High or 10th Grade, there is a tragically high rate of First Alaskan village youth suicides, and nearby prisons are well-funded, and well-occupied. With some dry villages, some people are in prison for alcohol consumption or alcohol smuggling and there are many, many alcohol and DV related crimes. Plus Alaska has the highest rate of disappearances (creepy).

The root of any problems Alaska has with guns seems to be not with automatic rifles and how accessible they are, but home and remote gun safety, though even this is not a priority to the average Alaskan Republican or Democrat voter.

In general, automatic rifles, or guns of any kind don’t seem like as much of a problem to rural people as the dramatic loss of the ability to afford to leave town to even finish high school, loss of individual rights and dignities, degradation of public, State and Federal land, water supplies, and watersheds, loss of important subsistence sources which are now endangered like the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale, and a continued increase in the cost of living in rural areas that already have no real local law enforcement, no hotels, roads or infrastructure. Increasing unemployment, underemployment, increasing fuel and transportation costs, the lack of futures for the youth, with mostly service jobs in Anchorage for those without High School diplomas, and much, much worse.

So from this perspective the paradox is the villages and remote areas who vote primarily Democrat seem to perceive the hunting or gun accidents as rare but inevitable, like falling into a frozen river, or something that happens far away, in cities and towns, though this is not entirely the case. We unfortunately have a high number of gun accidents. This correlates with the high percentage of gun ownership in Alaska, however, and isn’t an outrageous amount in this respect, though it certainly can go down.

The major problems seen locally in villages are increasing cost of living, increasing cost of transportation, lack of infrastructure, lack of education, lack of jobs, loss of local food sources with declines in, or bigger variations in, salmon runs, diseased game and fish, quickly declining numbers in local game, increasing violent crimes in villages, high incarceration rates, and heart-breaking youth suicide rates.

Anchorage has gangs, and drive-by shootings in some areas, along with the Alaskan high violent crime rate, but it also offers the relative safety of law enforcement, good hospitals, some safe neighborhoods, a safe downtown, good educations and generally votes Republican except on Mayoral races. Anchorage may easily go Democrat this next Gubernatorial and Mayoral race. That’s how they roll.

The Alaska urban majority agenda for now seems pro-dirty industry (this may change next election), but just for now the urban votes currently go for lower taxes, less social programs and less funding for schools, locally and elsewhere, and most definitely pro: “gun freedom.”  Which means for now, villagers can keep their hunting guns and don’t have to pay more and wait longer in towns to get the rifles they need to survive in a Western world that is quietly starving them out in every other way.

And really, it seems most folks are not very happy with the current state or our Republican (Palin cast off) Governor or our legislature or most of our major polluting industries these days in this beautiful Banana Republic. However we Alaskans do love our freedoms in whatever forms they take… and political party alignments seem to change quickly like our weather here.

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