By Robert B. Young, MD
Over time, we’ve seen changes in focus by the hoplophobic elements of society. Originally, it was all about banning handguns or at least “Handgun Control Inc.” The “assault weapon,” that is, the AR ban of 1994-2004 followed, with no discernible effect on crime, homicide, etc. Movement mutation continued, with groups dropping wording advocating bans, and moving to claims of fighting pure “violence” and promoting gun “safety.”
Now they want to address the “root causes” of violence instead of just restricting legal gun ownership, though they’re still advocating extending background checks while claiming they don’t want to take anyone’s guns. Intervening within high-crime communities and with those at high risk of committing and becoming victims of violence is appropriate, though far more difficult than they may imagine.
Throughout, we’ve had no reason to believe that anti-gun activists have had any real change of heart. Their “conversation” always seems to come around to the desirability of somehow limiting the rights of law-abiding American gun owners in some way, even if that means “just” creating more hoops to jump through in order to purchase, keep, or bear our arms.
However, there’s a fundamental factor that will trump all their intentions, both open and disguised. That is us, the people (and voters) of democracies.
As Andrew Breitbart famously said, politics is downstream from culture and the culture is changing. Much of this is due to the past two years of violence, approved and applauded by “progressive” politicians who thought this would garner more minority votes. Their groupthink about identity and ethnicity blinded them to the reality that people of all ethnicities, communities and societies want crime stopped lest it hit them.
People are simultaneously realizing that they can’t count on being protected by government and must plan to do that for themselves. Thus the huge rise in gun purchases by more diverse buyers than ever, including women, minorities (especially African-American women) and self-described liberals.
It’s been speculated that this increase in valuing self-protection with firearms may transfer to an increase in valuing Second Amendment rights. And now, that’s no longer speculation.
The Trafalgar Group, a non-partisan polling operation, released a poll in which over 84% of respondents believed that “strict gun laws” either make no difference or worsen the current surge in retail thefts. Less than 16% believed such laws can make the problem better.
In November, Quinnipiac found that 48% of those surveyed opposed stricter gun laws versus 47% who support them. That followed a trend that began in 2015, with opinion now over the tipping point where a plurality oppose stricter gun laws.
Gallup’s polling correlates, with a new low of only 52% of Americans caring that “laws covering the sale of firearms” should be stricter. That’s down from a high of 64% in 2019, falling through 57% in 2020.
Meanwhile, ABC/Ipsos found that 66% of Americans disapprove of how President Biden is addressing “gun violence” (which could imply wanting either more or less strict laws). Republicans’ opposition to more gun control laws has strengthened while Democrats’ willingness to push for more strict gun laws is lessening, predictably. But the most important political demographic — independents — have shifted dramatically in favor of, shall we say, individual independence on this issue.
In the latest National Firearms Survey published in July, nearly one-third of respondents acknowledged owning guns, more than half of those say they carry them and almost a third of those reported having to use them defensively in one or more of an estimated 1.7 million incidents of self-defense.
In 82% of these DGUs, it wasn’t necessary to fire the gun. Almost 80% of those incidents occurred in the defender’s home or on their property, with the rest mostly occurring in a public setting or at work, still a very substantial number.
The NSSF also found that 49% more Hispanic Americans (none of whom use “Latinx”) purchased firearms in 2020 than in 2019. With 40% of all gun purchases during the past two years coming from first-time gun owners, it’s no surprise that Hispanics (as well as African-Americans) are increasingly coming down on the side of individual rights rather than government “protection.”
In Berkeley, California, of all places, the Latino Rifle Association has grown by hundreds of members since 2020. The “leftists . . . socialists, progressives” that make up the group’s membership realize that, “The police and the government aren’t taking care of me, so I have to do things on my own.”
Funny thing…that’s just what conservatives have recognized for generations. A much bigger organization, the National African-American Gun Association, has added tens of thousands of new members since 2016, accelerating (along with many local gun clubs oriented toward minorities) during the past two years.
Even our less demonstrative Anglophone cousins, Canadians and Kiwis, aren’t cooperating any more. They’re ignoring government orders to turn in their now-banned guns just like Americans have. Neither country’s gun owners have been eager to turn in their formerly legal firearms.
Only 160 of an estimated 100,000 affected firearms have been surrendered in Canada in a year and a half. In New Zealand, the 2019 ban of most repeating arms “has had no impact on a rise in gun crime and violence”, except for a steadily increasing rate of the offense of still possessing such firearms.
The conclusion that more and more people are coming to is . . .
This is precisely the cultural shift that precedes and triggers political change. Most Americans already knew that protecting individual rights is the uncompromisable basis of the success of American society and polity. Many others know that now and more are learning.
While Donald Trump improved the Republican share of the black and Hispanic votes (especially among men), that wasn’t about him or the party. It was about the importance of each person’s rights as an American.
Most expect that the Supreme Court will affirm the Second Amendment with a ruling in Bruen voiding New York City’s may(non)issue handgun carry permitting, along with the eight other states that persist in may-issue tyranny. The “progressive” left will keep caterwauling if they don’t get their way.
But should the decision go otherwise, their wailing would be nothing compared to the anger of the majority who are now convinced that individual rights are more important than political correctness. And that would assuredly lead to even greater political change in favor of ensuring those rights.
To paraphrase St. George Tucker, “the true palladium of liberty” isn’t just “the right of self-defence.” The right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and opposing tyranny is necessary to a free people in a free state. But it is a means to the goal, along with representative democracy lustily embraced, which is “to keep our republic” (h/t B. Franklin). The ultimate mark of liberty is individual autonomy, where the rights of the individual are placed above government’s privileges, which are only bestowed by us individuals.
DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
This article originally appeared at drgo.us and is reprinted here with permission.