Upsetting as Alex Jones’ outburst was on Piers Morgan’s show Monday evening, his belligerence reflects the antagonism of his rural listener-ship toward any form of gun control. Some writers may denounce his vehemence as cynically catering “his message's appeal to the vast majority of the audience,” but his hostility is well-founded. Rising crime and decreasing police protection make gun ownership seem the only reliable form of protection for many rural citizens.
Facts on the matter are difficult to obtain. A prominent 1994 study states that “research on rural crime remains sparse,” primarily because “researchers have spent most of their efforts trying to understand urban patterns of crime” and because by comparison “rural areas do look like havens of safety.” In prescient fashion, that paper identified the problem as resulting from the lag time between city and rural communities in the spread of crime and other social problems. The social forces shaping both communities are the same, but policymakers tend to allocate resources on the basis of origin. Rural areas are often passed over because as one Ohio farmer said "We are on the same train as city people, but we're in the caboose."
FBI statistics from 2012 corroborate the sense that unlike urban communities, crime, particularly burglary, is on the increase in rural areas. Though their crime rate is one-fifth that of Columbus, Ohio State University rural sociologist Joseph Donnermeyer in an MPR interview claimed agricultural industrialization has caused the burglary of barns and outbuildings to be twice that of urban homes. In terms of drug use, farm kids run “neck-and-neck on almost every drug” with their metro kindred.
In light of these problems, people like Heather Stahl in rural Oregon complain that criminals now intentionally target her property because they know the constable faces budget concerns and cannot respond. Criminal justice professor Ralph Weisheit concurs that “more small town departments [are] disappearing and turning over coverage to the sheriff.” In some areas of Illinois, police protection is “so thin, game wardens do some of the coverage.”
When asked why rural areas didn’t have more crime, Donnermeyer responded that if criminals “think that [a] house is more likely to have a gun, you have a deterrent.” Alex Jones’ reaction has been lampooned as hysteria by many, yet it reflects the desperation rural citizens feel toward the reality of their everyday lives. Despite the horror of the Newtown massacre, the passion Jones and other anti-gun control advocates feel should not be ridiculed because their terror mirrors that of their critics.