The Way Things Are Going Isn’t Good News For People Who Love Their Guns.

The other day a student studying public health came to my gun shop and spent an hour talking to me about guns. After going through the current numbers, which depressingly appear to be going up, she asked me if I could predict the eventual role of guns in American life. And I told her that predictions seem to be based more on what you want to see happen than what you know will happen, and this is certainly the case with guns.  On the other hand, the annual demographic projections made by Pew have just been released, and if the way that different demographic groups behave with guns continues to be the way they will behave with guns, the issue of gun violence in the long run may take care of itself.

Because the truth is, and I won’t back down on this no matter how many Gun Nation trolls send me the crazy emails that I will receive, if you aren’t walking around with a shield on your chest, you simply don’t need a gun.  You might like guns; you might (like me) want to own lots of guns; you might not understand why everyone doesn’t want to have a gun, but you don’t need a gun.  Even Ted Nugent eats mostly store-bought food and the number of people who honestly have used a gun to defend themselves from criminals, contrary to John Lott’s bullsh*t, is absurdly small.  So owning a gun just isn’t like owning a car or even a droid.  And if you want to believe that a gun makes you “free,” then you go right ahead because something called the Constitution, not your AR-15, allows you to believe anything you want.

That being said, the bottom line of the Pew demographic report is that this country is steadily and inexorably moving towards a population profile that just doesn’t favor guns.  Right now we are still racially more than 60% White, but the flood of non-White immigration will not abate no matter what Trump says, and twenty years from now the non-White and the immigrant-based population will be climbing towards 50%. Colion Noir can prance around a shooting range all he wants, but the bottom line is that non-Whites, generally speaking, aren’t particularly attracted to guns.

Perhaps the bigger change, because it encompasses racial categories, is the degree to which women are steadily moving ahead into positions of economic power and cultural influence both within the public arena and at home.  The proportion of single-parent households continues to increase, the proportion of women who are the sole primary family financial provider is pushing towards 50%, and women continue to make gains in the workplace in terms of leadership on the job.  I don’t care how many times home-schooling queen Dana Loesch tells us that she loves her guns, most women don’t agree. And the fact that, according to the NSSF, there’s been a surge in women participating in the shooting sports is a function of changes in how families participate in social activities, not in the number of women who buy and own guns.

Let’s understand something: a prediction is not a fact.  So it could turn out, although I doubt it, that Pew’s projections of how the country is changing will ultimately be at variance with what the country’s population looks like down the road.  For that matter, who can say for sure that women, new immigrants and minorities will continue, in the main, to be anti-gun.  But there are two reasons why what I see in the current trends will end up being true.

First, Pew’s work isn’t just a one-shot deal.  They base their predictions on the continuation of trends they have been following and charting for more than thirty years.  Second, Gun Nation really hasn’t come up with a solid argument for gun ownership beyond what they have been saying for the last thirty years, and these groups have remained resistant to guns over that entire span of time. And unless Gun Nation can figure out a way to make their case to new immigrants, minorities and women, the country will contain less people who want to own guns.  And guess what?  Less guns means less gun violence.  It’s as simple as that.

 

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The New York Times Thinks The NRA Has Won. I’m Not So Sure.

It’s official.  The NRA has won the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people. The victory has been announced by none other than The New York Times in an editorial from Charles Blow, reporting on a report from Pew Research, which shows that more Americans favor “gun rights” than favor “gun control.”  The margin is narrow, 52 to 46, but in surveys conducted since 1993, the gun-control folks held a substantial lead over the pro-gun gang in every poll.  Now for the first time, the positions have “flipped,” leading Blow to announce that “The NRA appears to be winning this round.”

Not surprisingly, this opinion piece caught the attention of the gun-sense community, and not in a particularly positive way.  After all, the Times has published numerous editorials calling for stricter gun licensing, and the paper went out of its way to highlight the news that none of the guns displayed at the recent NRA show in Nashville could actually be made to shoot.  Want to get someone on the pro-gun side to quickly lose his cool?  Mention Mike Bloomberg or The New York Times.  Take your pick.

nyt logo                After announcing the results of the Pew survey, Blow gave his best guess as to why public opinion appears to be favoring less gun control.  I’m being polite by characterizing Blow’s explanations as being a ‘best guess.’  The truth is that nobody really knows whether anyone who is asked a question about something as politically insignificant as guns has spent more than two seconds thinking about the issue before they picked up the phone.  Guns only register as an important issue in polls that are conducted immediately after a high-profile shooting (Gabby Giffords, Sandy Hook), and with all due respect to Mr. Blow, I have never been convinced that we should take public opinion all that seriously about an issue whose significance rises and falls following random events.

Be that as it may, I want to offer a counter-argument to the Times and Charles Blow, and I want to make it clear that neither am I looking for some kind of silver lining in what otherwise might be seen from the gun-sense side as a depressing state of affairs, nor am I suggesting that the survey question no longer captures a valid view of what the gun argument is all about.  Because no matter what people who want to see an end to gun violence might think, changing public policy on gun ownership means making changes in the law.  And even if the laws are only changed to make it more difficult for guns to get into the ‘wrong hands,’ (e.g., domestic abusers, violent misdemeanors), this still means extending the reach of government as to whom should be able to own guns.  If that doesn’t qualify as new or additional controls, no matter how you dress it up, then perhaps I need a refresher course in English 101.

One thing I do know is that the mortality and morbidity resulting from the use of guns amounts to more than 100,000 Americans every year.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s intentional or unintentional, whether it’s self-inflicted or inflicted by someone else, the one thing that all this mortality and morbidity shares is that it involved a gun.  And the other thing we know is that changing anything that results in this kind of behavior takes a very long time.  Tobacco was proven harmful fifty years before warnings appeared on cigarette packs.

Widespread advocacy about gun violence is really only twenty years old.  And let’s not forget that the survey used by Charles Blow was actually conducted and published last December, with public opinion about all progressive issues in the doldrums after the mid-term election results of 2014.  The fact that the NRA continues to marginalize and sensationalize its own message is not symptomatic of strength, but of a failure to attract new demographics (women, minorities, etc.) to its fold.  I wouldn’t be so quick to move the NRA into the winner’s circle.  Not just yet.