Blue in a Red State: Gun Legislation

About six months ago I moved to Idaho. It’s not a place I ever thought I would end up.

As irony would have it, I followed my girlfriend to one of the reddest states in the country. And now I live in a little city called Moscow, about 8 miles from the Washington border.

I've lived in very populous places my whole life, so this has been a bit of a culture shock for me. It's surprised me in a lot of ways — though some are a bit more predictable than I would’ve hoped.

Case in point: the politics.

I am what some would call a bleeding heart liberal when it comes to most issues, so the conservative air of my new home on the Palouse is sometimes hard to swallow.

As a journalist, it's part of my job to keep up on politics, so it’s not something I can ignore. On top of that, the juxtaposition of conservative Idaho with liberal Washington legislation right next door has given me a real glimpse into America’s political divide.

With that in mind, I’m taking on a new project: Blue in a Red State. Every Saturday, I will try to reveal and examine some of the interesting (and often problematic) juxtapositions between blue and red legislation across the country, both minor and extreme.

So hop on your sleds and get ready to ride these beautiful Idaho hills, because this liberal snowflake’s got some things to say.

Gun violence.

It’s a problem, and one I think we can (read: should) all get behind fixing.

No one deserves to die at the hands of someone who should not have a gun. In the meantime, we have to legislate who is allowed to have guns, and when and why it is appropriate to use them.

Now, oftentimes, red and blue states have a disparity in their policies on policing these sorts of issues — some wider and more ridiculous than others.

Just last week, the Idaho and Washington state legislatures passed two very different pieces of legislation.

Idaho passed a new Stand Your Ground law that defines “justifiable homicide” as a death resulting from the “self-defense” of not only one’s person, but also their property, their place of business or employment and their inhabited car.

So in Idaho, if you shot someone because you felt that you or one of these things was being threatened and that person died, theoretically, you would not face consequences.

If you were white. Let's be real.

If the phrase “Stand Your Ground” seems familiar, that’s because it was the law in Florida under which George Zimmerman got away with the murder of Trayvon Martin. 

In the midst of this debate over gun violence, the state of Idaho passed a law expanding what constitutes “justifiable homicide” in the case of a shooting.

Just take a moment to soak that in.

Washington passed a law on the same day which made it illegal for people convicted of domestic violence harassment to own, buy, or sell guns.

Mind you, where I live these laws exist with only 8 miles between them.

Where I sit and write this, it is easier to get away with shooting someone.

Eight miles away, it is harder for people more likely to shoot someone to get a gun in the first place.

Now, what will happen as a result of these laws remains to be seen, but I think it’s safe to say these two states have a very different idea about how to deal with the epidemic of gun violence in our country.

You can agree with either or neither, but the point here is consistency. How is it that a simple cross of the state line, an 8 mile drive west, can make such a difference in what is law?

How can we disagree so fundamentally on what is right and what is wrong?

Why are some states determined to protect their people with legislation to keep us safe, while others allow us to kill each other without punishment?

I don’t know.

But I am on a mission to find out.

When it comes to this and other disparities, I am determined to understand.

Look out next week for the second piece in the Blue in a Red State series.

Until then, stay cool snowflakes.

Kelly Livingston is a freelance writer with a passion for intersectional feminism. After four years studying English and Anthropology at the University of Florida, she remains fascinated by the ways we can use writing to comment on and change our culture.