Ever notice something about the leading political opponents of gun rights? Hint: They are really, really old.
Examples: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D - CA), 79. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D - DC), 75. Vice President Joe Biden (D), 70. Mayor Mike Bloomberg (R - NYC), 70. Representative Jim Moran (D - Alexandria), 67.
These political activists have been pushing their anti-gun rights agenda before most Americans were born. But over the last century, American’s views on gun rights have dramatically changed.
"Historically, large majorities of Americans favoured [British English] stronger gun laws, way back to the 1930s," said Robert Spitzer, author of the Politics of Gun Control and chair of the political science department at State University of New York College at Cortland. "But visibly in the last decade public opinion has shifted toward being more sympathetic toward the gun rights position."
While its possible that individual Americans’ views on gun rights may have changed over time, a more likely explanation is that newer generations of Americans just support gun rights by higher margins than their predecessors. The latter conclusion is supported by a 2012 American University study conducted by American University professor Jennifer L. Lawless and Loyola Marymount professor Richard L. Fox which focused on the political opinions of young Americans.
Gallup reported in 2011 that “[f]orty-seven percent of American adults currently report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property. This is up from 41% a year ago and is the highest Gallup has recorded since 1993.” And now the American University study finds that an even higher percentage of younger Americans - 60% of both high school and college students - "plan on owning guns at a later stage in life.”
Shane Balanger, executive director of Gun Owners of Maine, agrees that younger Americans to be very supportive of gun rights. Balanger notes that "a significant number of our group is under 30."
Apparently shocked at her own findings, Professor Lawless told Campus Reform last Tuesday that in her view the findings were proof that President Obama should move swiftly, and without the permission of Congress if necessary, in order limit the availability of firearms. “The next generation plans on owning guns, so . . . we obviously need to move quickly and if an executive order is the way to do it, then that is the way the to do it,” she said.
Gallop opinion polling has also been tracking what is perhaps the leading metric on gun rights – the right to keep and bare handguns. This metric indicates that, as time moves foward, and older Americans die, and younger Americans become adults, that support for gun rights increases, just as the recent American University study indicates that young Americans plan to own firearms at higher rates than previous generations.
A year ago Gallop found that a “record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years.”
Let's be clear - this demograghic shift on handguns is dramatic, and apparently still ongoing. In 1959, 60% of Americans wanted to ban handguns. By 2011, this view had completely reversed such that 70% of Americans oppose handgun bans, and over 8 million possess concealed handgun permits.
The “handgun metric” gets to the bottom line, the core purpose of the Second Amendment, which, as the Supreme Court said in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), is “self-defense,” says John Pierce, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, and "not hunting, the interests of gentlemen skeet shooters, so-called sportsmen, nor the political gentry who like to have intermittent photo-ops with non-scary looking, but otherwise extremely lethal, long guns," he added.
In one famous such political gentry photo-op, Senator John Kerry (D – MA) posed in Ohio 2004 with a shotgun pointing up into the night sky, Afghan wedding style. And several weeks ago after President Obama (D) announced that he shoots skeet "all the time," the White House released a photo of the President firing a shotgun at Camp David.
This Presidential skeet shooting publicity prompted the Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy (“Gun bans won’t solve problems of violence”) to write:
“I don’t particularly like the AR-15, although it is one of the most popular rifles in the country. Three million have been sold, according to an NRA researcher. But to define it as an assault rifle because of how it looks — with a pistol grip, adjustable stock, flash suppressor and “high-capacity” magazine — is silly.
You want to see a dangerous-looking gun, look at the one Obama was photographed skeet shooting with at Camp David last summer. That shotgun of his was big enough to take down a woolly mammoth. When I pulled the trigger on the AR-15, one high-powered round came out. Maybe I hit something; maybe I didn’t. Obama can’t miss. He could clear a room with one double-barreled blast.
Why ban one and not the other? And once you start banning semiautomatics, where do you stop?
If gun-control advocates were truly serious and not just well meaning, they’d be focusing a lot more on education and mental health." [emphasis added].