Concealed handguns could have been carried by law-abiding, responsible citizens of Missouri under Proposition B, but on April 6, Missouri voters defeated the measure by a small margin (52 to 48 percent). To qualify for a concealed-carry permit, one would have had to be at least 21, have taken 12 hours of state-approved firearms training, and have undergone an extensive background check designed to weed out felons, drug addicts, those with a history of violent behavior, and the mentally ill. The negative vote is full of hard lessons for paleoconservatives and libertarians, and it tells us much about the state of contemporary society and the persistence of pre-industrial cultural patterns in modern America.

First of all, the vote dispels the notion that we will win as long as we can get our message out. Supporters of Proposition B outspent their opponents by five-to-one, flooding the airwaves with television and radio commercials for at least a month before the vote. (Of course, opponents got free advertising from anti-B editorials in the state’s major newspapers, all of which are leftist and anti-gun.) Second, emotionalism counts more with the majority than does rationalism. While pro-B commercials stressed that women could better protect themselves with a concealed weapon and that the crime rate has gone down in every state that has passed a concealed-carry gun law, opponents suggested that gun-toting Missourians would start shooting each other in traffic jams, at bars, and at professional sporting events. Third, corporate America is acting as the money chest for the hard left. The anti-B campaign was bankrolled largely by 32 corporations based in St. Louis and Kansas City. (The pro-B campaign was funded largely by the National Rifle Association.) Fourth, the cultural gap between urban/suburban and rural America continues to widen. Citizens in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas voted against B by about 65 to 35 percent, while the rest of the state voted for B, 61 to 39 percent. Of the state’s 114 counties, 103 went for B, while only 11 defeated it. Of those 11 counties, only three were predominantly rural. Anyone who drove through the Missouri countryside before the election can testify that virtually every other farmhouse had a pro-B sign. Fifth, the vote offers more evidence that Midwestern suburban America is not yet ready for a Middle American Revolution.

Affluent and mostly white St. Louis County voted against B by an astounding 70 to 30 percent. When one considers that the working class is generally pro-gun, it seems clear which groups formed the bulk of the no vote; single women, soccer moms, and the henpecked, sports watching, male employees of corporate America. When people vote down a referendum designed to restore a constitutional right, they are saying that they are comfortable with their status as subjects and that they trust the state to provide for their security: not exactly the stuff of which revolutions are made.

Finally, the vote reveals that Missouri continues to be divided between a Southern and a Northern culture. Outside of its two large metropolitan areas (St. Louis and Kansas City), Missouri remains an upper South state. While no one missed the importance of the urban/rural division in voting, only by taking the North/South division into account can we explain why three predominantly non-rural Missouri counties voted for concealed carry. Greene County, in the southwestern corner of the state, includes the small city of Springfield (population 143,000). Jefferson County, a populous county of 200,000, is part of the St. Louis metropolitan area. Jackson County, in the southeastern corner of the state, is home to Cape Girardeau (35,000), a university town. The one thing that all three counties have in common is that their population is still predominantly Southern.

Furthermore, consider two similar counties in the northern part of the state. Nodaway, located in the northwestern corner of Missouri, has a county seat of 10,000 people that is the home of Northwest Missouri State University. Its voters rejected B. Adair, in the northeastern corner of the state, has a county seat of 17,000 that is the home of Truman State University. Its voters approved B. The explanation seems to lie in historical and cultural differences. The northeastern corner of Missouri was a hotbed of Southern resistance to Republican military occupation during the War of Northern Aggression. To this day, it remains more Southern in population and culture than the northwestern corner.