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Guns in America
59 Percent of Young Americans Oppose Assault Weapons Ban

It was clear to many of us that the terrorist shooting at San Bernardino would not persuade the public to support additional gun control measures. Americans have historically regarded private gun ownership as a last-ditch defense against political movements that would undermine democratic government. The sense that the United States was under attack from ISIS, therefore, seemed likely to make Americans more protective of gun rights, not less.

To many liberals, however, this understanding of the Second Amendment is simply incomprehensible. Opposition to gun control must flow out of ignorance, prejudice, and bitterness. Vox‘s David Roberts, in a particularly vivid demonstration of this view, explained to his readers that “over the past few decades, gun ownership in the US has evolved from a practical issue for rural homeowners and hunters to a kind of gesture of tribal solidarity, an act of defiance toward Obama, the left, and all the changes they represent.” He continued:

Let us imagine, then, a conservative gun owner — an older white gentleman, let’s say, in his 50s, living in the Rust Belt somewhere. When he was growing up, there was living memory of a familiar order: men working in honorable trade or manufacturing jobs, women tending home and children, Sundays at church, hard work yielding a steady rise up the ladder to a well-earned house, yard, and car.

That order was crumbling just as our gun owner inherited it. The honorable jobs are gone, or going. It’s hell to find work, benefits are for shit, and there isn’t much put aside for retirement. The kids are struggling with debt and low-paying jobs. They know, and our gun owner knows, that they probably aren’t going to have a better life than he did — that the very core of the American promise has proven false for them, for the first time in generations.

It’s a bitter, helpless feeling. And for someone naturally attuned to “order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity,” it’s scary. The role he thought he was meant to play in the world, the privileges and respect that came along with it, have been thrown into doubt.

Putting aside the cringeworthy condescension (masquerading, as it so often does at Vox, as neutral “explanation”), a new ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests that Roberts’ understanding is, quite simply, wrong. Support for gun rights is not confined to a declining cadre of “bitter” old white men. Rather, it is widespread and growing in the general population. According to the poll, more Americans (53 percent) oppose an assault weapons ban than ever before. Millennials—the most liberal, diverse, and tolerant generation in American history—are even more strongly opposed, at 59 percent. And contrary to Roberts’ narrative of the gun fight as an expression of white resentment, there is not even majority support for an assault weapons ban among non-whites.

The truth is that support for gun rights is the product of rising individualism and a declining faith in the government’s ability to solve problems. After the attacks in San Bernardino, Americans’ Jacksonian impulses were amplified further—not because of the decline of “manufacturing jobs” or “familiar order”—but because they felt that their country was under attack by jihadists. Contrary to Roberts, gun rights have never simply been “a practical issue for rural homeowners and hunters.” Since the founding, the idea of an armed citizenry as a safeguard against tyranny has been hardwired into our national character. And that is precisely the impulse that appears to be animating such strong opposition to gun control in the wake of San Bernardino: According to the poll, those Americans who are most worried about terrorism are also most opposed to gun control.

Gun controllers will never be able to convince America to cut back gun ownership if they don’t understand why Americans want to own guns in the first place.

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  • CaliforniaStark

    Americans have bought over 100 million weapons during the Obama presidency, in part because they do not trust his ability to protect them from terrorism. After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, as with the previous Ft. Hood and military recruiting center terrorists attacks, Obama seemed more interested in attempting to claim the attacks were not the work of radical Islam-inspired terrorists, rather than in providing additional security. As example, military recruiters are still not allowed to carry firearms.

    Anyone who has spent time at a shooting range is not surprised to learn that a poll showing millennials oppose banning assault weapons. Demographics at shooting ranges are getting younger, and the younger shooters are increasingly using ARs.

    • qet

      I hope they all show up next year at the one poll that really counts.

  • Nevis07

    I agree 100% that Americans understanding of the Second Amendment is rooted in defiance against tyrannical rule, self defense and the protection to individuality. But I would go further and actually turn Robert’s words around and apply them to liberals – this is a case of left projecting their own fears on the rest of us. All Americans are concerned with the issues that he’s listed, both on the left and the right. But it’s the liberals that are acting out of fear; they are the ones who truly think that giving up guns somehow will cause threats to disappear or that we’ll all magically be better off – that things will somehow get better. Giving up constitutional rights… what did Ben Franklin say about that? I think we all know. We won’t end up with more safety or more liberty.

  • circleglider

    David Roberts personifies Jason Willick’s indictment of gun controllers’ as solely focused on “going after their political enemies—socially conservative white men in red states.”

  • Pete

    “Americans have historically regarded private gun ownership as a last-ditch defense against political movements that would undermine democratic government.”

    Exactly.

    And just imagine how much more lawless the administration of Barack Hussein Obama would be if citizenry was unarmed like in Europe, say.

  • qet

    The Left in the US is engulfed by, encased in, fear and anger. Trigger warnings, safe spaces, hate speech, threats to imprison dissenters from orthodoxy–these are the direct products of the fear and anger the Left feels today (and has for a long time) towards anyone and everyone whose politics is right-of-center or, today, even centrist. This is the prism through which they perceive the world, which explains why they continue to ascribe those same motivations to every belief and political position of their opponents. This is also why it is useless to try to reason with the Left today, to educate them on the Constitution, to have “conversations” (in which we have been engaged for years, proving the Left’s incessant call for “conversations” to be in bad faith).

  • FriendlyGoat

    It’s too late for an assault-weapons ban. There are already too many of them in circulation to consider it. This is not 20 years ago.

    • AaronL

      What happens if they pass a ban on ammunition for assault-weapons? At some point people’s supplies run out.

      • CapitalHawk

        Are they going to pass a ban on chemistry? Figure out how to do that and you might be on to something that will work.

        • AaronL

          You’ve got me wrong. I’m against a gun or ammunition ban. I just think that whoever wants to ban guns realizes that you won’t be able to confiscate them and so will try to cut the supply of ammunition. It’s a lot easier to buy bullets than manufacture your own and the government will think that by banning ammunition they can cut down dramatically on the ability to use firearms.
          I’d be interested in a serious reply to what I think is a dangerous and possible tactic by the anti-gun lobby.

          • CapitalHawk

            I think that (a) there is little chance in a total ban getting passed at the federal level, (b) any state level ban would be completely ineffective due to the inability to police the border of each state effectively, and (c) that courts would view a total ban on ammunition as tantamount to a ban on the gun itself.
            For example, the First Amendment protects freedom of the press. What if a state were to not to restrict the press, but instead passed a total ban on all ink used in the printing of newspapers? I think that the courts would view that as the equivalent of a ban on publishing newspapers and disallow it.
            Finally, and most importantly, they would have to ban virtually every type of ammunition used in rifles today. Ban .223/5.56? Fine, I will get a new receiver and barrel chambered in 7.62. Ban both of them? Fine, new receiver and barrel in .308. Ban all of those, I’ll get one in .45. And on and on.
            And banning all rifle ammunition just gives even more credence to the courts stepping in. It would also cause an uproar from hunters who otherwise wouldn’t care about a ban on “assault rifles”. Which goes back to point (a), above.

          • AaronL

            That’s a relief. Thanks for the detailed reply.

          • Angel Martin

            at one point giant ammunition excise taxes were considered, and also huge excise taxes on powder and primers.

            I would hope that $100/bullet ammunition taxes etc… would not past muster with “… shall not be infringed”.

            but with the current Supreme Court, who knows ?

      • FriendlyGoat

        I just don’t think it is going to happen. The time for this has passed.

      • Boritz

        They threatened to do just that in 2015 with a proposed ban on 5.56 NATO but backed down when opposition materialized. They will no doubt revisit this opportunistically in the future.

    • Jim__L

      It was too late for an “assault weapons” ban when they ratified the Bill of Rights. Heck, it was too late when Americans realized that human beings have inalienable rights.

      The 2nd amendment, read simply and clearly, is a pledge by the federal government (in exchange for that government’s right to exist) not to infringe on the inalienable right of all Americans to keep and bear an infantryman’s weapon. The purpose of this weapon is to ensure that America remains a free country, where the federal government does not break the other pledges it made in the Bill of Rights not to infringe on other inalienable rights that Americans have.

      This is a feature, not a bug. The federal government’s right to exist depends on it keeping up its end of the bargain.

      • FriendlyGoat

        You may be surprised to know that not only am I not pushing for an assault-weapons ban, but that I am also convinced no one is going to do it. I do believe there might have been a time to do it, but it was a long (long) time ago, basically before hardly anybody had bought one. The toothpaste is out of the tube and nobody can put it back in.

        • Jim__L

          Not surprised, this is just further details regarding your original comment. Thanks for your efforts to advance mutual understanding, though. =)

  • Angel Martin

    Each additional terrorist attack undermines support for gun control in two ways:

    The attack itself undermines gov’t claims to be able to protect citizens

    The investigation of the terrorists inevitably reveals addition gov’t stupidity, incompetence and futility: visa expiries not enforced, watch lists ignored, visas approved months after the attack, fellow employee concerns blown off, mental health exclusions missed, social media searches not done, immigration application errors ignored…

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