My friend David Yamane runs a pro-gun blog called Gun Culture 2.0. In fact, what he really does for a living is teach sociology in North Carolina, and this year gave a course on the sociology of guns which included a trip to a shooting range, along with lectures on just about every facet of the gun world, along with off-line arguments with me. Make no mistake about it, Yamane’s a pro-gun guy. But he’s also a smart guy, a diligent researcher and someone who’s not afraid of the facts. Which makes him somewhat unique among pro-gun folks, most of whom are about as interested in evidence-based discussions as I’m interested in staying on my diet.
In any case, he’s just published some very interesting data on his website that was inspired by a bit of internet research conducted by his wife. The research consisted of a state-by-state listing of all Google searches performed in 2015, which caught Mrs. Yamane’s attention because one of the most popular search terms listed for their state of North Carolina was “concealed weapons permit.” And it turns out that this term was also one of the most popular search terms in Florida. And then it turns out that if one takes the trouble to read through the popular search terms for all 50 states, the term doesn’t appear anywhere else.
Now wait a minute. Didn’t we just go through two months of Republican Presidential clap-trap in which every one of those clowns endorsed the idea of carrying a gun? Didn’t Donald Trump proclaim his own preference for concealed-carry after the Virginia shooting of two journalists followed by the Umpqua mess? I don’t ever remember anything having to do with guns playing such a central role in any political campaign, and yet the issue at the center of the argument hardly gets a ripple at all.
And it’s not as if the Republican campaign was absent from the Google search engine. In fact, Trump and other Republican candidates were mentioned 16 times in the most popular internet searches, which was 6% of all Google search terms – to put that into perspective, ISIS was searched exactly twice. I should add, incidentally, that one-third of the search terms for Presidential candidates were racked up in New Hampshire, which should hardly surprise given the fact that the Granite State probably suffered through more political visits than all other 49 states combined. Bear in mind that the Google listings did not break down each term by specific number of searches; it just listed the most popular searches in each state.
While concealed-carry was obviously on the minds of residents in North Carolina and Florida, there were a few other states where something having to do with guns was also a popular search term. The term ‘2nd Amendment’ was popular in Arizona, ‘mass shootings, in Colorado, ‘gun control’ in Idaho, ‘right to keep and bear arms’ in Missouri, and believe it or not, ‘NRA’ in Tennessee. Wyoming must be a real gun-nut state because of the 6 most popular search terms ‘guns’ and ‘AR-15’ both made the list.
So the bottom line is that of the most popular 250 Google search terms throughout the United States, something having to do with guns made the list 3% of the time. Again, be advised that I don’t have specific metrics for each term; for all I know maybe residents in Wyoming searched for AR-15s more than five million times. But since the state’s total population is less than 600,000, this work would have kept every man jack, woman and child busy in Wyoming for a long time. Get it?
I think the data presented by David Yamane (and his wife) is an important contribution to the GVP debate. Because if nothing else, it perhaps reflects the fact that guns aren’t quite the mainstream issue that the NRA would like you to believe. And if that’s the case, is it really all that important whether Donald Trump walks around with a gun?