Do More Guns Being Sold Mean That More People Own Guns? Don’t You Believe It.

It’s another year until we elect the next occupant of the White House, but the gun industry is in full swing reminding gun owners that a Democratic win will result in yet another attempt to confiscate everyone’s guns.  And the Democrats, much to the joy of the NRA, are making it clear that gun control will be an issue in the upcoming election, particularly if the ticket is headed by a lady raised in a suburb of Chicago who would love to spend the next four years back in Washington, D.C.

Best gun salesman ever!

The dirty little secret about the gun business is that gun sales spike upward when gun owners believe they won’t be able to buy any more guns.  You can get a pretty good idea of this situation from the ATF’s annual report on gun manufacturing, which shows that 40 million guns were manufactured and imported between 2009 and 2012, an increase from 24 million manufactured and imported the previous four years.  That’s a rise of 66% from the last four years of George Wubbleyou through the first four years of You Know Who, and the numbers during the second term of what Rush calls ‘the regime’ have stayed just as strong.

Even Apple doesn’t have sales increases compared to what’s happened with guns.  If you purchased Smith & Wesson stock for what was about three bucks a share in 2008, you could sell it today for $18. Ruger’s stock was around eight bucks when Barack took the Oath in 2008, now it’s sitting above $52 a share.  Google has gone from $200 to $700 over the same period.  Guess what?  The crummy, old gun business has outperformed hi-tech.

In addition to an unprecedented sales increase, the attitudes of Americans have clearly softened when it comes to attitudes about guns.  The polls say that a majority of Americans believe a household with a gun is safer than a household unarmed.  Americans also believe that we need more 2nd-Amendment rights and less laws regulating small arms.  So under Obama the industry has achieved both remarkable sales and acceptance of a laissez-faire attitude regarding additional laws. Is it any wonder the gun industry doesn’t let a day pass without trumpeting ‘gun-grabbing’ charges against Hillary and the rest of the ‘Democrat’ gang?

There’s only one little problem.  Underneath this blanket of good news, the gun industry is facing a problem that won’t be overcome no matter how loud they talk about America’s love of guns.  And the problem has to do with the fact that every year the number of Americans who legally own guns keeps going down.  It used to be that the decline in the percentage of households with guns was slightly less than the increase in the overall population; hence, the raw number of families with guns continued to go up.  But this is no longer the case, with recent surveys showing that the drop in percentages of homes with guns has been greater than the increase in the population as a whole.

Another, even more disquieting trend facing the gun industry is that the demographic groups whose growth increasingly spurs population as a whole – women, new immigrants, minorities, millennials – are not particularly pro-gun.  Dana Loesch can yap all she wants about the ‘millions’ of American mothers who protect their families by being armed and Colion whatever-his-name can prance around with an AR telling inner-city residents that a gun will make them ‘free,’ but both of those canned and stupid scripts are falling on deaf ears.

I would love to see just one survey which after finding that a majority of Americans believe that a gun will protect them from crime, then ask the same population whether they have actually gone out and bought a gun. It hasn’t happened, it’s not going to happen, and the gun industry knows full well that for a majority of Americans, there’s no love lost with guns.

 

 

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Want To Bet That Guns Sales Will Remain Strong In The Years Ahead? I’m Not So Sure.

Far be it from me to inject a note of pessimism into the gun industry’s continued success in convincing America that guns are a benefit and not a risk.  After all, would anyone have predicted the recent Gallup poll which shows that a majority of us now believe that we need less, rather than more gun laws?  And how does the gun-control community deal with the latest research from Pew which shows that a majority of Americans now believe that guns keep us safe from crime?  And then there’s the proliferation of concealed-carry licenses which were virtually unknown in most places twenty years ago but are now issued without question in more than 40 states.  And let’s not forget, of course, the legal imprimatur handed to the gun industry with the Heller decision in 2008.

gun show                While it’s been a tough, uphill battle for the gun-control movement of late, I’m not sure that anyone should consider throwing in the towel.  Because what’s really interesting about all those success indicators noted above is that they seem to be happening just at the point in which certain trends which might foreshadow a very rocky road ahead for the pro-gun community are beginning to emerge.  And don’t get me wrong – I’m not pro-gun or anti-gun.  I’m just, as always, trying to tell it like it is. And this is how it is.

At the same time that legally, socially and culturally gun ownership seem to be more mainstream, the number of Americans who own guns keeps going down.  The latest studies indicate that slightly more than one-third of American households contain a legal gun, but this percentage was as high as 53% in 1976.  And since the average American household has slid from 2.9 to 2.5 persons during this same period, even the absolute growth in the total population means that the number of Americans who have access to legal guns continues to go down.

Once we begin to qualify gun owners beyond the raw number who own guns, the trends become even more bleak.  The industry has made a valiant effort to build a market among women, minorities and new shooters in general, but the truth is that gun ownership is still largely a choice embraced by older, White men.  And it is precisely the older, White men who are lagging behind the growth of such demographics as single women, new immigrants and minorities – the latter groups responsible for the increase in America’s population as a whole.

But if there’s one trend that should concern the gun industry vis-à-vis the future of gun ownership, it’s a trend that isn’t tied to gun ownership at all.  Rather, it concerns how the millennial generation is shaping its view of the world which will ultimately determine what American society thinks about everything, including guns.  What Pew Research refers to as the “relative liberalism” of Millennials is a serious, long-term problem for the pro-gun community because if there’s one thing that defines and divides conservatives and liberals it’s the issue of guns.  I’m not saying there aren’t a few liberals out there like me who happen to be gun nuts in their spare time.  But I can’t remember the last time a member of the Democratic Party addressed a meeting of the NRA.

Here’s a new survey which should give the gun celebrants some pause:  Only 19% of the age group 18-29 gets their news from Fox; more than 50% learn what’s going on around them from NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Public TV, and another 10% rely on Jon Stewart or Colbert!  None of those media outlets are in any way or shape pro-gun, and this could be a decisive factor in determining the place of guns within our society in the years to come.

 

Guess Who Owns The Argument About Gun Violence? It Ain’t The NRA.

Right after Sandy Hook we were treated to a rant from Wayne-o in which the head of the NRA blamed gun violence, among other things, on “a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life.”  He then castigated “media conglomerates” for bringing murder and violence as entertainment motifs into every American home. In defending gun ownership following this horrendous gun violence event, the NRA found it expedient and effective to rally its troops around the idea that popular culture and gun culture don’t mix.

I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns. The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won’t really matter if the country’s dominant culture becomes anti-gun. And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the “culture wars,” the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun.

june2                How can I say that when recent opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that guns make America a safer place?  I’ll tell you why.  First, the surveys which ask Americans if guns make them safer also show that less than a majority actually own guns.  Second, despite the Obama-driven spike in gun sales, the industry has not managed to penetrate new demographics such as women and minorities; most guns and ammunition sold in the last few years went to the same-old, same-old who bought those guns for the same reason that gun sales have spiked at other times, namely, the fear of losing their guns.  Finally and most important, the social and political views of millennials are completely at odds with the socio-demographic profile of the gun-owning population, and as millennials become the dominant generation, this could have dire consequences for the health and even survival of the gun industry as a whole.

According to Pew, a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012.  As for Boomers, who buy and own most of the guns, they don’t support gays, they are fiercely patriotic, a majority are religious and they split their vote evenly in 2012.  What these numbers tell me is that over the next twenty years, the gun industry better come up with a wholly different argument for owning guns.

Gun Violence Awareness Day, as reported ruefully by Brietbart and other pro-gun blogs, garnered support from movie, song and media personalities like Russell Simmons, Aasif Mandvi, Padma Lakshmi, Amanda Peet, Tunde Adebimpe and many, many more.  I’m actually a pre-boomer, and I don’t have the faintest idea who any of these people are.  But I do know the celebs who show up each year at the NRA shindig; guys like Chuck Norris and Ollie North. Wow – talk about young, hip and cool.

Another master-stroke in planning this event was using orange to build identity and awareness for the folks who get involved.  Orange, or blaze orange as it is known, has always been worn by hunters and many states require it for anyone goes out after game.  Brady and Shannon’s Moms, among other organizations, have lately moved into the safety space which was owned lock, stock and barrel by the NRA. Guess who now shares and could soon own that space?

Until recently, the playing field where gun violence arguments played out was controlled by the NRA. But right now the field is tilting the other way.  And notice how millennial culture has no problem attaching the word ‘violence’ to the word ‘guns.’  This alone should make the NRA wonder if their message can win or even compete for hearts and minds.  The NRA always assumed that gun owners would defend their guns while everyone else just sat by.  After June 2nd, I wouldn’t want to take that assumption to the bank.

Is Gun Control Un-American?

On Sunday I went out to play golf and caught up with the guy ahead of me at the 7th tee.  The 7th hole at this course is the No. 1 handicap, so it’s not unusual to spend some time waiting for the players ahead of you to struggle to the green before you start your own tortuous way up the fairway.  As I came alongside the player I noticed he was standing on the tee looking at his droid, and since he was dressed in a corporate-casual golf outfit, I jokingly said to him, “Well, you always have time to catch up with your emails when we get to this hole.”

“Oh no,” he replied, smiling, “I’m actually watching Costa Rica versus Greece.”  That’s right.  What was the hip thing for my generation to do on the golf course ten years ago – read our emails – has now been replaced by the World Cup.  And the fact that many of the matches are drawing larger viewing audiences than the World Series or the NBA should tell you how America is changing.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the popularity of soccer is due to the fact that we are being overrun by immigrants coming from countries where the real game of football is so-named because it’s played with the feet.

The truth is that soccer continues to grow in popularity because increasingly America is looking overseas for culture and lifestyle activities and even political ideas that were previously unknown or unpopular over here.  In 2002, roughly 60 percent of Americans believed that our culture was superior to all others; a Pew poll in 2011 found this number had dropped to less than 50 percent.  If you’re over 50, it’s still likely that your favorite sport isd baseball, the All-American pastime.  If you’re under 40, soccer is your favorite sport.

fifaIt’s partially the surge in Hispanic population that’s pushing these trends; but the real shift is among people under 30 – the Millennials – who just don’t buy into the traditional versions of the American Dream.  Of course this is also the first generation raised on the internet and gets the bulk of its information from video sources rather than print.  Which is another reason that younger Americans look to Europe because cell-phones, droids and new technologies in general were much more prevalent in the Old World before they started appearing in the New.

People who continue to promote American exceptionalism, the idea that we do it better because we do it different from everyone else, are having a hard time selling this message to the kids who are glued to their screens, big and little, watching the World Cup.  And what could be more exceptional than the 2nd Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms?  Most Europeans have absolutely no idea what it’s like to own a gun; they certainly can’t even imagine keeping a Glock in their pocket for self-defense.

It will be interesting to see whether younger people, as they get older, start moving towards a greater appreciation of traditional American values, thus turning away from Europe and, like previous generations, embrace things that makes the USA different and great.  This is certainly the line that the NRA and the gun industry is pitching at younger folks, and we’ll just have to wait to see how it plays out.  Meanwhile, all you gun guys out there – do you know the name of one player on the American World Cup team?  I don’t.

Can The NRA Sell Their Message To The Millennial Generation?

Even though violent crime has declined by more than 50% over the last twenty years, it’s not surprising that Wayne LaPierre and other promoters continue to justify gun ownership as our first, last and most sacred form of personal defense.  After all, guns are found most frequently on farms, rural communities and smaller towns.  Bye-bye farms and rural living, bye-bye guns. Thirty years ago a majority of small arms manufactured in the United States were rifles and shotguns; now more than 60% are handguns and the percentage would be even higher were it not for a surge in assault-style rifles which are often sold as weapons that can be used by the ‘good guys’ to keep the ‘bad guys’ out of sight.

Going forward the news for the gun industry and its advocacy organizations like the NRA doesn’t hold any silver linings, at least any that can be found in a very detailed poll conducted by the Pew Foundation on the outlook of the Millennial generation, aka, persons aged 18 to 29.  The Pew poll summed up Millennials as follows: “They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.”

Wow.  That’s hardly the profile of the NRA stalwarts who gathered last week in Indianapolis to hear Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, Oliver North and the other harbingers of doom tell them that the country was quickly going to hell in a handbasket and that only a gun and a good dose of patriotism would keep the criminal hordes away from knocking down their doors.  In the first four minutes of her speech, Sarah Palin referred to the anti-gun threat sixteen times and made it clear that only a Republican sweep in November would guarantee American freedom and basic rights.  And what did the audience look like that whooped and hollered as these well-worn bromides were being served?  Mostly male, mostly 50 or older and totally White.

The NRA and the gun industry have done a really great job making that kind of audience feel like they are under attack. They’ve done an equally good job pushing the idea that modern life is fearful and fear can be overcome if you own a gun.  The problem is, that even after a prolonged recession when many younger people had great difficulty finding jobs, the Millennials are the most optimistic and the least fearful of all population groups, and remain the most convinced that their future dreams will come true.  They aren’t tying these thoughts to a Republican win in November; they see the world through their own eyes, and those eyes aren’t focused on the NRA.

If Millennials maintain this very distinct world view as they get older, the problem of gun violence may take care of itself.  Because even though many younger people think that guns are “cool,” (after all, they were raised on video-games,) they don’t see the world as a dark or forbidding place.  And it’s that dark and dangerous world that the gun industry and the NRA has been using to sell more guns since everyone started leaving the farm.

evolve-badgeWant to see the kind of gun message that Millennials will like?  Take a look at this video produced by my friends Jon and Rebecca Bond for their organization called Evolve.  It’s, hip, it’s cool, it delivers a serious point about guns but makes it in a clever and sophisticated way.  I have never seen a message like this coming from the gun industry because they haven’t figured out how to speak to the generation that will either become or not become their customers and supporters in the years ahead.  And if  they don’t figure out how to do it the Bonds and other Millennial-conscious organizations will end up owning the debate.

Guns And Millennials: Which Way Will It Go?

In February the Center for American Progress, which is Washington’s pre-eminent liberal think tank, jumped into the gun debate by holding a national conference attended by all the usual suspects (Bloomberg, Coalition Against Gun Violence, et. al.,) and issuing a report which described a “crisis” of youth gun violence.  The report is basically old wine in a new bottle and doesn’t really say anything that can’t be found in any number of other gun control reports, but since CAP often defines the issues that sooner or later end up spearheading the liberal legislative agenda, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the details, which I’m sure have also been read with interest at the headquarters of the NRA.

capAccording to the CAP report, of everyone killed by guns each year, one in five was 24 years old or younger, making gun death the second most common form of morbidity for this age group, surpassed only by motor vehicle accidents.  Actually, the number and rate of guns deaths has been pretty steady or declining slightly since 2000, while car accident deaths for people under age 25 has dropped by nearly 30% during the same period. On the other hand, vehicle deaths held steady and actually increased between 1990 and 2000, whereas young gun deaths declined more than 20% during that same period.  So first it was gun deaths that declined significantly for ten years and then stabilized, then car deaths dropped and likewise stabilized, with the two trends running very similar numbers since 2010.

Why was there such a significant decline in young gun deaths between 1994 and 1999?  The truth is, we don’t know.  Even though homicides usually account for less than 3% of all violent crimes, they tend to follow other crime trends and violent crime in the United States dropped significantly in every category between 1993 and 1999. Why did this happen?  There are lots of theories out there, from aggressive policing to increased jail populations, to removing lead from paint, less unwanted babies after Roe vs. Wade, and God knows what else.  Perhaps the decline in violent crime occurred for all those reasons, but the truth is that we simply don’t know.

One thing we do know is that the decline in gun violence before 2000 and its stabilization in the years since then occurred in the absence of any new gun control legislation at all.  The NICS background check system wasn’t operating in any comprehensive sense until 1998, which is when the decline in gun violence began to slow down.  For that matter, while the authors of the CAP report bemoan the fact that gun deaths are “failing to go down,” one could turn this completely around and wonder why gun deaths haven’t gone back up?  This is a particularly vexing question given the fact that gun violence remains stable at a time when more guns are being manufactured and sold than at any time in the history of American small arms.

Don’t get me wrong.  The fact that a group of Millennials came together to organize a grass-roots movement aimed at their peers, particularly the college-age population, is a wonderful antidote to the fear-mongering and glorification of the “armed citizen” that  the NRA cynically uses to promote gun sales.  And maybe the Millennials will be the first generation since my generation (I’m a pre-Boomer) to once again embrace the traditional notions of guns as necessary for hunting and sport but not much else.

On the other hand, I hope that the CAP and its legislative followers won’t just seize on this document to promote yet another round of political hand-wringing that will no doubt result in little, if anything, getting done.  I’m all for solutions to public health issues whose origins, incidence and impact we truly understand.  We know how many people are killed by guns every year, but I have yet to see a convincing study that explains why some people who have access to guns point them at themselves or others and pull the trigger, but most of the gun-owning population leaves the gun alone.  Like Walter Mosley says, “If you carry a gun, it’s bound to go off sooner or later.”