N.R.A. noise and the sound of a better tomorrow

by | Oct 8, 2017 | Politics/Government, Pop/Life

“I hope that gun smoke is gonna make you cough,

I hope you hear this song, and it pissed you off.”

That is not exactly how the Spin Doctors “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” goes. But so many people have quit smoking cigarettes since that 1991 song, I thought I would move it on to the next thing.

There was another mass shooting last weekend, but this time a controversial device known as a “bump stock” was added to the semi-automatic weapons used. This device makes these rifles function like fully-automatic rifles. It makes sense to me to further regulate them. And it makes sense to many members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican.

The surprise this time in our predictable post-massacre pattern, is that the National Rifle Association has come out in support of reviewing the regulatory approach on the devices.  Not all guns rights Americans agree with the N.R.A. on this one. So there is at least a little tension amongst them at the moment.

I hope it will last.

I could write about guns, the Second Amendment and all related things far more often than I do. I have taken a pass for most of the last year because the discussion that follows generally lacks rationality. It will this time as well.  Fire away gunners! I am ready for you, just like always.

I am a fan of New York Times columnist, David Brooks. He wrote a good one on Friday, and though I will challenge some of his data below, I agree with his theories and conclusion.

My conclusion: our nation’s attachment to guns has peaked.

“Guns are a proxy for larger issues,” Brooks writes. I agree. He opines that people in agricultural and industrial areas of America feel that their lifestyles are being threatened by postindustrial society. I agree again. It is that defense of the status quo that limits progress, and not just on gun violence issues, but all of the individual battles which make up today’s culture war.

But this column is all about guns.

In a Washington Post piece that ran in September of last year, Christopher Ingraham details some fascinating stats. 78% of American adults do not own a gun. 19% of adult Americans own 50% of the nation’s civilian owned guns. 3% of adult Americans own the other 50%.

Of course, the pro-gun crowd will challenge these stats.  After all, why should we trust research done at Harvard University?

When doing my policy-wonk work, I almost always end up at the Pew Research Center. In July, Ruth Igielnik published a study on the different experiences and views of rural and urban gun owners. At one time or another, I have lived in rural, suburban and urban areas, so the gun stats didn’t surprise me.

What did surprise me was the polling data on constitutional rights, and how “essential” each are to these Americans and their own sense of freedom. Remember, this data is among gun owners. 97% of urban gun owners value the freedom of speech as essential, while only 59% of them value the right to own guns the same.

For a rural gun owner, the freedoms of speech, voting, privacy, religion and gun ownership all rank between 93% and 82%. In other words, all of these freedoms rank so similarly to one another, they are virtually synonymous with generic freedom itself.

That makes this not about the gun or the church or the protest, it is simply about their “sense of freedom.”

My favorite demographic group continues to be the millennials.

I have two sons in their early 20’s, so even if I didn’t want to, I would need to pay attention here.

Time magazine reported in August that this bunch is not as “progressive” as many of us might think. They cite data that shows more support for gun rights, and opposition to national health care and governmental environmental regulation as their reasoning. At the same time, this group is more pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, and pro-gay marriage.

While I believe this younger group would argue that they should have the right to own a gun, I also believe a sharper majority of them never actually will do so. For my sons to spend any significant money on anything, it requires a decision making process different than the one I had at their age.

They evaluate things based on actual value. Which is the biggest problem of all for the gun industry. It won’t be the government, it will be the economic reality of gun ownership that will change the debate over the next few decades. As we should have always expected.

Buying a gun for protection in the city is not the best insurance policy available. It rarely pays off, and the price is high. There are risks attached to it. A gun can’t be brought everywhere. And on and on. Young people today will not see the value of gun ownership the way my generation did.

Coupled with that, more than 80% of Americans now live in urban areas, where gun ownership is already sharply less prominent. That number will grow, making the Washington Post numbers citied above, coupled with the Pew numbers, into a very bad business scenario for gun makers.

As fewer people own guns, and fewer people hunt, and fewer people live in rural areas, the future of the gun economy and its market becomes less attractive.  And as the economy of it sours, the irrational defense of it and the role it plays in our culture war will sour with it.

So the N.R.A. and its members have had their time atop the power structure in America. They have made a lot of noise, and an awful lot of money.  I hope they saved wisely.

The future is almost certain to have fewer gun owners, fewer gunshots, and there will be a lot less noise.

Markets don’t respond well over time to nonsense. And that’s the noise of which we have heard enough.


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