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Monday, November 2, 2015

Everyone Wants to Write the NRA Obituary

Ever since a Gallup Poll came out a couple weeks ago showing an uptick in support for gun control, opinion columnists have been eager to write the obituary of the NRA.  The latest is Bill Schneider.  He has a piece today over on the Reuters web site titled Republican primary aside, NRA may be losing its grip on the public’s imagination. He uses the Gallup Poll as proof that like same sex marriage before it, gun rights is slowly going out of style:
Over the past 10 years, the United States has seen a complete reversal of public opinion on same-sex marriage — from opposition to support. This month, a Gallup poll press release was headlined, “Americans’ Desire for Stricter Gun Laws Up Sharply.”

The turning point on guns came in 2013, when the Senate filibustered a bill that would have closed the “gun show loophole” and mandated background checks for all gun purchases. About 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. After the Senate bill failed, public support for stricter gun laws shot up to 58 percent from 44 percent a year earlier.

In the case of same-sex marriage, the shift of opinion was driven by personal experience. More and more Americans say they know someone — a relative, a friend, a coworker — who is openly gay. The shift on guns is being driven by mounting outrage over the country’s inability to keep guns out of the hands of deranged individuals.
Schneider doesn't mention the CNN Poll that came out at the same time as the Gallup Poll had a different result, or that the Gallup result while higher than a year ago, is still slightly lower than in December 2012, immediately after the Newtown school shootings.  And, this is just on a question related to laws pertaining to the sale of firearms.  An overwhelming majority still oppose bans on handguns.

Another problem in Schneider's reasoning is there is another Gallup Poll released around the same time that indicated a majority of respondents think the Democratic Party position on gun control is out of the mainstream.  Schneider did mention the demographic shift that Professor Adam Winkler discussed in his Washington Post Op/Ed.  That narrative goes that because women, Blacks, and Latinos overwhelmingly support gun control, the NRA's, and by extension, gun owners, days are number.  Forbes contributor Frank Miniter is the latest to push back against that notion:
Even a Google search would show Winkler that the USA Today, hardly a pro-gun group, has reported that a large and growing percentage of women are now carrying handguns. The USA Today found that in Tennessee women hold “30% of almost 193,000 handgun-carry permits in effect at the end of 2013,” in Washington state, “100,000 of 451,000 concealed-carry permit holders are women” and in Florida “women were 22% of concealed weapon license holders as of May 31, up from 15% in 2004.”

After looking into these demographic changes the NSSF found that an “increase in female customers is not the only trend to which the industry is responding. Urban areas are beginning to see a significant uptick in legal gun ownership, which is slowly putting the original idea of the stereotypical gun owner to rest.”

The NRA has also begun challenging these demographics by running television ads featuring minorities and others who live in urban areas. The one that grabbed me is of a grandmotherly looking black woman who says, “I live in a government high-rise. Gang bangers and drug dealers walk down our halls everyday…. The police can’t keep us safe… But the Housing Authority told me if I bought a gun to protect myself they’d throw me to the streets. If I’m not free because of my address today what makes you think you’ll be free tomorrow. I marched for Martin Luther King at Selma. I know my rights. Now I have my gun. I am the National Rifle Association of America and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
You don't have to take the decidedly pro-rights Miniter's word for it though.  Look at this Today Show segment by Ronan Farrow to see that the old white guy narrative is changing.  That's not to say everything is roses.  Gun owners need to continue reaching out to minorities and women to bring them into the community of gun owners so the next generation is just as protective of our rights as we are.

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