That’s me and my family at the Democratic Convention in 2008, watching Barack Obama accept the nomination. We’re big Obama fans. But I find myself cringing when I read all the calls from the left for Obama to come out strongly for gun control in tonight’s State of the Union address.

There are two trends that should give hope to those who profess to care about gun violence, and who call the loudest for gun control. The first is the stunning drop in violent crime over the past twenty years. Murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery . . . all of them are about half as common now as they were in 1990, even though gun ownership has gone way up and gun laws have become much looser. The second is the rapid aging of the gun-buying population.

Young people don’t like guns. Statistic provided by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association of the firearms industry, shows that the percentage of guns bought by twentysomethings is in single digits. It’s middle-aged guys and older who do most of the gun buying. Young people want to be urban and digital, and guns are neither.

I’ve been driving around the country interviewing gun guys for my book about Americans and their firearms. (I’ve done about 12,000 miles so far.) I have an app on my iPod Touch called Gun Shop Finder, but about half the gun stores I’ve tracked down were boarded up by the time I got there. And of the ones I found, most were giving over half their floor space to archery.

Fewer young people hunt every year, and the ones who do want to do it with a bow. It takes more skill, it’s more “extreme,” there’s no bothersome paperwork involved in buying a bow, and most of all, bowhunting looks better on television than gun hunting, so is all the various hunting and outdoor networks show. Hunting with a gun is what their fathers did.

It doesn’t seem true this week, in the wake of Tucson, but guns are, in a sense, going out of fashion. The gun problem, to the extent there is one, is going away. Those at the Brady Center, and the Legal Community Against Violence, and the other gun-control organizations, should be celebrating our national success at reducing the harm that guns cause in society. Instead, they’re wringing their hands and calling for more useless “solutions” to a problem that is solving itself on its own.

In the three previous posts on this site, I argue that aside from being bad policy, gun control is politically toxic for Democrats. It’s hard to demonstrate that any gun-control law has ever saved a life, but easy to show that by identifying itself as the party of gun control, the Democratic Party has sacrificed a generation of voters who have every other reason to be natural Democrats.

As I prepare to listen to President Obama tonight, I am haunted by something a Michigan gun-store owner said to be last summer. “Business is terrible,” he said. “I just need Obama to say, ‘gun’ one time. He doesn’t have to say anything else; just ‘gun.’”

Here’s hoping he doesn’t.

[Read Dan Baum’s Our Gun Thing blog @ danbaum.com. Do it for the children.]

26 Responses to Baum to Obama: Don’t Burn Ballistic Bridges

  1. I hope he uses the “g” word. I’d respect POTUS more if he came out of the closet and showed his true colorsrather than paying false tribute to 2A while appointing Andrew Traver.

      • Just because bumepr stickers say look at me doesn’t say anything about better than me . I’d say the owner is a man of peace wishing to convince his neighbors to be the same. Don’t you advertise your values to your neighbors and think them unenlightened when they disagree? Why, for example, would an intelligent adult ride around on a dangerous motorcycle just for pleasure?

  2. Sorry, but I have to respectfully part ways a bit with folks here on this blog. Obama hasn’t done anything since taking office nor has he even said anything that would indicate he’s all of a sudden going to change course and become “anti-second amendment”.

    I’m a believer in giving credit where it’s due and I admit I thought this President would rip the 2nd Amendment right out of the constitution on live TV but he’s done NOTHING of the sort.

    I have no reason to believe he’s going to say anything to chip away at my 2nd Amendment rights. Everything I’ve read so far is just speculation.

    Of course, if I’m wrong, I’ll make a $10 donation to the NRA and post a link to the receipt. 🙂

  3. “Young people don’t like guns.” That ain’t true here in ND.
    I do agree with Mr. Baum about Bow hunting though. I damn near gag every time I turn it to Outdoor channel and see ANOTHER boring ass bow hunting show(sorry, Nuge). Yes, I’ve sat in tree stands and ground blinds for hours bow hunting and imho it totally sucks. Now dropping a whitetail, muley or antelope @ 400 yds with my .308, that’s my kinda party!

  4. Victor,

    When you say: “Obama hasn’t done anything since taking office nor has he even said anything that would indicate he’s all of a sudden going to change course and become “anti-second amendment” you are incorrect.

    The proof? Obama nominated Andrew Traver for the ATF.

    Obama is cunning enough to realize that the second amendment issue can sink his presidency (as it nearly did his far-more-talented predecessor, Bill Clinton), so he is not openly challenging it. But he has surrounded himself with gun-haters, and has appointed gun-haters to every position he has had to fill. Actions, Victor, not words, are what counts.

    People are known by the company they keep. Considering the pack of terrorists, taxcheats and Bolsheviks that Obama runs with, his stealth approach to gun control is not surprising.

    • Indeed, actions are what counts. Until there is actual action that subverts my right to own a firearm by this administration, I’ll withhold judgement.

      I live in Chicago, I’m surrounded by gun-haters on a daily (or rather, “Daley”) basis and I know what it’s like to have my 2nd Amendment privilege trampled on.

      Yet, my rights were restored by the Supreme Court (albeit, slowly) and I have promptly exercised them. Never, in a hundred years, would I have thought it possible to purchase a handgun in Chicago, especially during this administration but here we are.

      Travers and his ilk cannot reverse that. That’s my opinion (which anyone is free to disagree with – it’s still a Free Nation).

      Although it may sound like it, I’m not dismissing your concerns and I sincerely hope our minor disagreement remains just that – minor.

      • “Travers and his ilk cannot reverse that. That’s my opinion.”

        Victor, on this issue we all want you to be right. At the same time, we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We don’t really have a disagreement.

        • I am sure that many people who get attacked by alligators feel as Victor does:

          “I have never been attacked by an alligator, so no alligator will ever attack me. All of that natural instinct that alligators have to attack prey doesn’t count. And the many incidents of alligator attacks must not have happened, since I did not personally witness them.”

          A gator is a gator, Vic.

  5. I would also point out that one of the reasons young people may not be buying a lot guns is price. Most 20somethings I know are into AR’s and tactical bolt rifles, they’re not really on the cheap end as gun prices go.

    • Good point. Throw in high cost of ammunition, then the fact that for most, instant gratification is not possible: for most, you have to drive to a range. It’s not like the latest video game which you can just play whenever and wherever.

      In some ways, being dedicated to be a marksman is a long term commitment, in which it takes dedication, money, time and effort to do right. Throw in some social impediments (“guns are evil”) and I think the problem is summed up.

  6. Sure, young people are not buying a lot of guns… they’re not so cheap. Plus, the cost of digital stuff sucks all the money out of their pockets. I purchased 5 guns in my 20s, I’ll probably buy less in my 30s since I already have what I want except for a few things. I just got sick of buying a new computer or other digital device every 2-3 years to keep up. My 10/22 I bought in 2000 still works and is as current and up-to-date as once can hope.

  7. Huh?

    Dan, did you miss the run on guns over the past two years…the ammo shortage…the rise in internet gun sales…the near-weekly new gun models and designs coming out…the increase in the number of people with concealed carry permits…the overall change in people’s attitude toward guns and gun ownership? If gun shops are closing where you have been, you probably missed some newer shops opening. While hunting may be declining, guns and shooting appear to me to be growing in popularity. It’s probably wishful thinking on your part but, at the very least, I’m happy to see someone else coming to the realization that further gun control legislation is a non-solution.

  8. I have an app on my iPod Touch called Gun Shop Finder, but about half the gun stores I’ve tracked down were boarded up by the time I got there. And of the ones I found, most were giving over half their floor space to archery.

    Dan I don’t think that’s because of decreasing interest in guns, I think it’s because of the rise of the “big box” sporting goods stores, and the internet. Nowadays people can get a better deal at the BB store on new guns and for used guns, Gunbroker and the like are better than a dealer who has to pay for overhead.

    I would also add that many “gun shops” are run or staffed by curmudgeonly/surly employees and this drives potential new customers away, but that’s really a topic for a separate editorial…

    • Another interweb-based factor in this is that people can get reviews of gun shops online. Those establishments that cater to the community (and are aware of GunBroker et al. competition) get the business. The dour, curmudgeonly establishments quickly get a bad rep that minimizes the new (especially young) customers.

  9. Young People LOVE GUNS!! R U KIDDING ME!!! HAH!!!

    To the Young Guys – a SECRET: As an NRA, STATE-CERTIFIED TRAINER, u want to get a date with that “hot chick” QUICK? Invite them to come shoot ur Gun! {heh} WATCH HOW QUICK SHE JUMPS!!! WATCH!!!

    Typical ignorant Libs:
    Stats will show its ALWAYS been that way in America and isnt a TREND but a fact due to 1 thing & 1 thing only!! MONEY!! Young people HAVENT ANY, and they TELL me so!!! and they’ve never shot (due to a generation of lib-restrictions) and r shy to followup ’cause they dont know how.

    Thats all -u ingnorant LIB. TEST MY THEORY: INVITE A YOUNG PERSON TO GO SHOOTING WITH U. Watch their INSTANT SMILE!!! : )

    IGNORANT LOUDMOUTH LIBS… I CANT STAND ‘EM!!!

    • Wow. Who has the loud mouth now. Way to represent. It’s ignorant of you to state that “Libs” are ignorant. Ignorance is rampant, whatever one’s end of the political spectrum. Besides, I prefer the name “progressive”, and the first thing that I thought when reading Dan Baum’s article was, young people just can’t afford guns, much. Yes they like i-phones. When I was a teenager we liked cars and stereo systems. Guns too. Never bought any when I was young, though I did shoot. Never noticed any “lib-restrictions” preventing that. Then or since.

  10. Dan, I think your confusing a falling interest in hunting with a falling interest in shooting. Hunting has declined in popularity as the population has become more urban, and the logistics of hunting are harder to manage. Further, gun shops are drying up because of the internet, increased pressure by the ATF, and often lousy management of the gun shops themselves. Actual firearm sales, as recorded by the ATF (by number of background checks run), are on the rise. More and more gun sales are going to people interested in self-defense, or in practical shooting sports (IDPA, IPSC, 3-gun,etc.) This will be further enhanced as veterans return from our wars and want a gun like they had while they were deployed (just like every other generation of soldier) As a result, the gun industry as seen AR-15 rifles and pistols suited for concealed carry fly off the shelves, even while the economy has been horrible. Sales of traditional hunting rifles aren’t going to keep up, and stores that refuse to stock what customers want are failing…. No surprise there. And last but not least, guns are expensive. Young people don’t usually have much money.

  11. Chris, you are being too charitable:

    “Hunting has declined in popularity as the population has become more urban, and the logistics of hunting are harder to manage.”

    Hunting is declining because leftists have dedicated themselves to discouraging gun use and ownership by any means that they can think of. Bans on lead, areas made off-limits for hunting, environmental/noise complaints against shooting ranges, nonsensical new restrictions on where guns can be carried; they are all part of a backup strategy to target guns since outright legal efforts against guns directly have failed miserably.

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