This week New Yorkers Against Gun Violence released a survey they commissioned of 600+ registered voters in New York State. It’s part of an effort to promote new legislation that seeks to add additional safety measures to the SAFE law, which provoked lots of ire on the pro-gun side when Andy crashed it through the legislature shortly after Sandy Hook. The campaign is focused on a safe storage act known as Nicholas’s Law, named after a twelve-year old whose friend shot and killed him with an unlocked gun.
According to the NYAGV press release, the survey shows strong majority support for a wide range of gun-control issues beyond safe storage, including seizing guns from persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, microstamping of firearms sold in New York State, increased regulation of dealers and limiting gun purchases to one every month. With the exception of the last provision, a majority of gun owners also backed all the proposals, albeit by smaller margins of course.
Along with the specific gun-control proposals, the survey also asked both gun owners and non-gun owners about general attitudes toward the regulation of firearms. Here again, both groups agreed that gun violence was a serious problem and that government had the right to set “reasonable” regulations on gun ownership and gun use.
I am not surprised by these survey results, for the simple reason that New York is not a particularly gun-rich state. And even though gun owners are probably in the majority in upstate, rural counties, if you conduct a survey in which respondents reflect percentages of New York State’s population living in large cities and suburban zones, you’re going to get most of your answers from people who, even if they own firearms, certainly don’t have the degree of enthusiasm or loyalty to the gun culture that you find in the South or rural parts of the Midwest.
That being said, when I looked at the cross-tabs for every question which break down responses by age, gender and race, the results of this survey raised some serious doubts in my mind as to what the future of gun ownership is really going to be. Because what was interesting about the cross-tab responses was the degree to which for virtually every question, the groups that the gun folks have been trying hardest to persuade to join their ranks are exactly the groups who appear to be least interested in owning or, to put it bluntly, having anything to do with guns.
For example, in answer to this statement, “Having a gun in the home makes the occupants of that home safer,” a slightly majority (52%) disagreed. This runs contrary to recent polls which show that a slight majority nationwide would agree. But in New York nearly two-thirds of the female respondents disagreed, as did the Black and Latino respondents, as did the respondents ages 18 to 34. As to whether to support reasonable gun regulations, roughly three-quarters of Blacks, Latinos and women agreed with this statement, but for the 18-34 age group the number was a whopping 82 percent!
Again, it needs to be remembered that these numbers would be different In states where most people own guns. But I don’t think the gun folks should just write these numbers off because everyone knows that New Yorkers don’t like guns. Marketing campaigns to the contrary, women and minorities still don’t appear enamored of guns. Moreover, the fact that younger respondents exhibited the highest degree of approval for gun control and the lowest degree of support for the notion that guns protect us from crime tells me that the NRA and the pro-gun community may not be reaching the next generation of gun owners with a message that really works. But that still leaves open the question of whether the other side can double down on the views of women, minorities and millennials to advance their agendas in gun-rich states. New York ain’t exactly Dixie, right?