Over time, we’ve seen changes in focus by the hoplophobic elements of society. Originally, it was all about banning handguns or at least “Handgun Control Inc.” The “assault weapon”, that is, the AR ban of 1994-2004 followed, with no discernible effect on crime, homicide, etc. Movement mutation continued, with groups dropping wording advocating bans, moving to claims of fighting pure “violence” and promoting gun “safety”.
Now they want to address “root causes” of violence instead of just restricting legal gun ownership, though still advocating extending background checks while “not taking anyone’s guns”. Intervening within high-crime communities, and with those at high risk of committing and becoming victims of violence, is appropriate, though far more difficult than they may imagine.
Throughout, we’ve had no reason to believe that these anti-gun activists have had any real change of heart. Their “conversation” always comes around to the desirability of somehow limiting the rights of law-abiding American gun owners in some way, even if in “just” creating more hoops to jump through in order to purchase, keep or bear our arms.
However, there is a fundamental factor that will trump all their intentions, both open and disguised. That is us, the people (and voters) of democracies. As Andrew Breitbart famously said, “Politics follows culture” and culture is changing. Much of this is due to the past 2 years of violence approved and applauded by “progressive” politicians who thought this would garner minority votes. Their groupthink about ethnicity blinded them to the reality that people of all ethnicities, communities and societies want crime stopped lest it hit them.
People are simultaneously realizing that they can’t count on being protected and must plan to do that for themselves. Thus the huge rise in gun purchases by more diverse buyers than ever, including women, minorities (especially African-American women) and self-described liberals. It’s been speculated that this increase in valuing self-protection with firearms may transfer to an increase in valuing Second Amendment rights—and now, that’s no longer speculation.
The Trafalgar Group, a non-partisan polling operation, just released a poll in which over 84% of respondents believed that “strict gun laws” either make no difference in or worsen the current surge in retail thefts. Less than 16% believed such laws can make this better.
In November, Quinnipiac found that 48% of those surveyed opposed stricter gun laws versus 47% who support them—following a trend beginning in 2015, now over the tipping point to plurality opposition. Gallup’s polling in November correlates, with a new low of only 52% of Americans caring that “laws covering the sale of firearms” should be stricter (down from a high of 64% in 2019, falling through 57% in 2020).
Meanwhile, ABC/Ipsos found that 66% of Americans disapprove of how President Biden is addressing gun violence (which could imply wanting more or less strict laws). Republicans’ opposition to more gun laws has strengthened, Democrats’ preference for more strict gun laws is lessening, predictably. But the most important political demographic—independents—have shifted dramatically in favor of, shall we say, individual independence on this issue.
In the latest National Firearms Survey published in July 2021, nearly 1/3 of respondents acknowledged owning guns, more than half of those carry them and almost 1/3 of them reported having to use them defensively in one or more of the estimated nearly 1.7 million episodes of self-defense. In 82% of these DGUs, it wasn’t necessary to fire. Almost 80% of these incidents occurred in the defender’s home or on their property, with the rest mostly occurring in public or at work, still a very substantial number.
NSSF also found that 49% more Hispanic Americans (no, none use “Latinx”) purchased firearms in 2020 than in 2019. With 40% of all gun purchases during the past 2 years coming from new gun owners, it’s no surprise that Hispanics (as well as African-Americans) are increasingly voting more for individual rights than for government “protection”. In Berkeley, California, of all places, the Latino Rifle Association has grown by hundreds of members since 2020. Its “leftists . . . socialists, progressives” members realize that “The police and the government aren’t taking care of me, so I have to do things on my own.”
Funny thing, that’s what conservatives have recognized for generations. And a much bigger organization, the National African-American Gun Association, has added tens of thousands of new members since 2016, accelerating (along with many local gun clubs oriented toward minorities) during the past 2 years.
Even our less demonstrative Anglophone cousins, Canadians and Kiwis, aren’t cooperating any more with government orders to turn in their newly banned guns than Americans have. Neither are turning in their formerly legal, acceptable firearms—only 160 of an estimated 100,000 affected firearms have been surrendered in Canada in a year and a half. In New Zealand, the 2019 ban of most repeating arms “has had no impact on a rise in gun crime and violence”, except for a steadily increasing rate of the offense of still possessing such firearms.
This is precisely the cultural change that precedes and triggers political change. Most Americans already knew that protecting individual rights is the uncompromisable basis of the success of American society and polity. Many others know that now and more are learning. While Donald Trump improved the Republican share of the Black and Hispanic votes (especially among men), this wasn’t about him or the party. It is about the importance of each person’s rights as an American.
Most expect that the Supreme Court will affirm the Second Amendment with a ruling in Bruen voiding New York City’s may- (= non-) issue handgun carry permitting, along with the 8 other states that persist in that tyranny. The “progressive” left will keep caterwauling if they don’t get their way. But should the decision go otherwise, their wailing would be nothing compared to the anger of the majority who are now convinced that individual rights are more important than political correctness. And that would assuredly lead to even greater political change in favor of ensuring those rights.
To paraphrase St. George Tucker, “the true palladium of liberty” isn’t just “the right of self-defence.” The right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and opposing tyranny is necessary to a free people in a free state. But it is a means to the goal, along with representative democracy lustily embraced, which is “to keep our republic” (h/t B. Franklin). The ultimate mark of liberty is individual autonomy, where the rights of the individual are placed above government’s privileges, which are only bestowed by us individuals.
— DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.