Houston is the most lethal city in the US if one looks at its homicide statistics--but not if the yardstick used is the incidence of legal convictions for murder. Anthropologist Lundsgaarde assays a ""cultural explanation"" for this discrepancy, a laudable aim, but one which gets mired in the worst sort of behavioral-science jargon. Digging through the Houston police files, Lundsgaarde found 268 official homicide cases in 1969. He also found that Houston police, DAs, and grand juries had frequently refused to indict or press charges. Why? Here we get introduced to the ""dyadic killer-victim relationship"" and the ""situational context."" In plain English, Lundsgaarde found that Houstonians considered many killings justifiable, excusable, or even laudatory: killing in defense of one's property or family was usually adjuged no crime. Further, when husband killed wife or friend bumped off friend in a Saturday night brawl they were far more likely to get off or receive only a light sentence than when killer and victim were strangers. Lundsgaarde proposes that the explanation lies in the customs and mores--or unofficial ""sanctions""--of the pistol-toting Texans. Which tells us exactly what?