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As NRA meets, Great Gun Debate intensifies America's culture war (+video)

Both sides in the debate over gun policy are indulging in stereotypes and name-calling, fueled by a distrust bred from previous culture war fights. As the NRA convention continues this weekend, are red and blue America really so far apart?

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On the pro-gun-control side, meanwhile, a public "shaming campaign" is under way to dress down senators who in April voted against certain gun-control measures.

In New Hampshire, Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, chastised Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) for her vote against the legislation. “You had mentioned, that day you voted, owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm," Ms. Lafferty said during a town hall meeting in Warren, N.H. "I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important than that."

Other gun control activists have been less reserved, characterizing their opponents on the issue as "gun nuts."

Senators who voted against gun control “need to know they have defied the will of the people, and that their cold calculation that there is more intensity on the gun-nut side is wrong,” Cliff Schecter, a liberal strategist who advocates tougher gun laws, told The Hill newspaper. “We are in the process of showing them that. And we intend to continue.”

In recent years, the red-blue political divide has appeared to deepen amid differences on issues such as abortion, immigration, same-sex marriage, and even taxes. Gun policy is the latest issue to reinforce stereotypes crafted by those earlier cultural flash points.

“The point is that the red/blue political split doesn’t get in the way of gun control. Rather, the cultural divide over guns is a driver of the country’s red/blue political split,” demographic analyst Dante Chinni wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal. “Where guns are concerned, [Americans] live in different places and different realities.”

It's true that in the South and the Midwest there are more guns per capita and a larger share of the populace favors gun rights than in the West and the Northeast. Those regional divides are apparent in the new gun laws that have been enacted since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December: At least a dozen Southern and Midwestern states eased gun restrictions, while New York, Connecticut, and Colorado strengthened gun controls.

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