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.]