Humboldt resident and registered gun owner Liam Doherty in the midst of a hunting excursion. Photo courtesy of Liam Doherty.

Wild West in Humboldt County


Humboldt County is known worldwide as a safe haven for hippies, liberals and gun-toting conservative cowboys.

Gun violence is on the rise around the country, especially in regards to mass shootings, as was just seen in Florida. Gun culture is being examined everywhere, questioned in many states and threatened all together.

“It puts gun owners in a hard position,” Humboldt resident and registered gun owner Liam Doherty said. “We get lumped in with the demonization when we’re trying to be responsible and use these tools for useful purposes.”

Mass shootings are on the rise, however. There have already been 30 mass shootings in 2018, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. Protests have erupted all around the United States in attempts to bring about gun law reform to make it harder or even impossible for American citizens to purchase firearms.

Video by Patrick Maravelias.

Alexis Pritchard, Humboldt State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, said if she had the power, she would take everyone’s guns away.

“I believe that the root of the problem comes with the National Rifle Association and the lobbyists that are paying off these politicians to keep guns like AR-15’s that should only be used in the military,” Pritchard said.

Arcata in particular has a reputation for being a progressive college town; pro-choice, pro-gun control and proactive in fighting for human rights. Outside of Arcata, however, is a jungle full of conservatives, cannabis and lots of firearms.

“Arcata’s the only place you don’t see it,” Doherty said. “It’s the only town in Humboldt without guns in it.”

HSU created a small, safer and more progressive circle than the rest of Humboldt. In addition, Arcata has a reputation for hippies, potheads and other stereotypes. But the truth is the majority of the country is very conservative. Fortuna, Ferndale, Rio Dell and Scotia all have more registered conservative voters than liberals, according to an article by the Times-Standard.

“Arcata is a bubble, even compared to Mckinleyville,” Pritchard said. “I believe that the gun culture in Humboldt is very diverse in that we have one city specifically that has completely different ideals than the rest of the county as a whole.”

The recreational cannabis industry is booming in California, and Humboldt is at the center of it. Currently, registered cannabis growers aren’t allowed to own firearms, which has created a mecca for illegal firearm trafficking in Humboldt as well.

Cannabis is legal to grow and use in California within certain limitations. But on the federal level, cannabis remains illegal, forcing farmers to use cash-only for business transactions, because banks are in control. This has indirectly created a community of farmers who are forced to own unregistered firearms in order to protect their assets.

The issue of illegal gun trafficking will be discussed further in the video on The Lumberjack website.

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