If anyone thinks the decision by the online dating website, Bumble, banning gun pics from their site isn’t a very significant, if not the most significant event in the current culture war over guns, think again. And the fact that Bumble caters to the two audiences which the NRA would love to have enamored of guns – millennials and women – only makes its decision even more important in terms of its impact on how the gun debate will turn out.
Let’s allow the founder of Bumble to speak for herself: “this move shouldn’t be seen as the startup taking a hard stance against (or for) guns or gun owners – rather it’s the dating app taking a hard stance against normalizing violence on their platform.” Incidentally, I scraped this quote not from a media website but from Forbes, which tells you something right there about how the gun debate may end up playing out This time around. Because the discussion is no longer being led by the usual pro-gun and anti-gun suspects (e.g., NRA versus Brady.) Now the real heavies are getting involved.
All of which, incidentally, goes back to the cultural war ignited by the Presidential campaign of a certain individual who now happens to be somewhat less enthusiastic about his love affair with guns. When Hillary talked abut gun violence during the campaign, she framed her narrative in the usual, safe way – a new law here, a new law there. Herr Donald, on the other hand, injected actual appeals to gun violence as a defining narrative of his campaign. Remember when he said that his followers were so loyal they would vote for him even if he ‘shot someone down’ in the street?
That was then, this is now. And now means that a day doesn’t go by when another commercial enterprise doesn’t get up and announce splitsville with the NRA. And even when Delta faced the wrath of some pandering local pols over a tax cut that was placed in jeopardy by the announcement that NRA membership no longer entitled the flyer to a discounted fare, the airline held firm, telling the politicians to stick their threat you know where.
While Bumble’s decision is obviously part of this trend, I see it being both different and more important in two respects. As I said earlier, the website aims primarily at young women, a demographic segment that the gun industry has been courting for years. And while you’ll hear all kinds of claims from NRA and NSSF about how many more women are getting into guns, the truth is that it’s not true. Women may be more engaged in shooting guns, but that’s because the age-old distinction between his interests and her interests are breaking down. Women buying guns? They are more than half the adult population and as gun owners, women never register above 20%.
Aside from these demographic considerations, there is another, more powerful issue represented by Bumble’s decision to get guns off their site; an issue which hits at the very shape and structure of the movement against guns. To a greater or lesser degree, most of the gun violence prevention (GVP) organizations promote changes in laws and regulations that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ Which is fine as far as it goes, but these strategies are based on an assumption that wither goes laws, behavior will then follow.
For most gun owners, the presence of a gun isn’t a legal decision, it’s a decision which reflects the culture and values they have. And who’s to say that culture will change just because a law is rewritten, or a new regulation is passed? Let’s go back to what the founder of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd, said above. She won’t allow her website to ‘normalize’ violence, which is what the current gun debate is really all about.
Ultimately changing the culture will end gun violence, not the other way around. The announcement by Bumble is an important marker in that respect.