All Those Gun Stores They Outnumber Museums and Libraries in Most States

By Ingraham, Christopher | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), June 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

All Those Gun Stores They Outnumber Museums and Libraries in Most States


Ingraham, Christopher, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Many readers took heart in last week's Washington Post story about museums in the United States outnumbering McDonald's and Starbucks outlets combined. But like so many other preferences that Americans have, there's a political dimension to the affinity for museums.

Just last week, a Pew Research Center survey found that liberals are much more attached to their museums than conservatives: 73 percent of "consistently liberal" Americans say that being near museums and theaters is important in choosing where to live. Only 23 percent of consistently conservative Americans agree.

Considering that divide, I thought it might be useful to map museums and libraries against an institution that conservatives might be more fond of: gun stores.

I took the museum and library counts from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The idea here is that museums and libraries play similar roles, as institutions of informal learning where students and adults can go to learn more about their communities and the world around them.

For gun retailers, I used data maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives on licensed firearm dealers. A high incidence of dealers indicates a robust gun culture - places where people hunt and shoot for sport and perhaps places where people are concerned about safety.

Keep in mind that these two data points aren't diametrically opposed - there's no reason you can't be a fan of both guns and museums. In fact, there is a National Firearms Museum run by the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia.

But viewed in relation to each other, guns and museums give some sense of a community's values. As my Washington Post colleague Emily Badger wrote the other day, we live in places that reflect our values, and many of us are sorting ourselves into communities that share our political views.

I mapped everything at the county level. Here are a few of the takeaways:

.New England is museum and library country.

Museums and libraries outnumber gun stores in all but two New England counties - rural Aroostook County in Northern Maine and Hillsborough County in New Hampshire, the state's most populous. …

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