Now that the dust has settled and the smoke cleared, Gun-sense Nation has to figure out how to move forward during the presidency of Donald Trump. Back when nobody realized how much Nate Silver’s predictions were nothing more than hot air on toast, there was almost a giddy-like atmosphere among gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates imagining an unthinkable political alignment of Hillary in the White House and a Chuck Schumer-led Senate on Capitol Hill. Expanded background checks, banning assault rifles, scrapping PLCAA, anything was possible. No wonder Smith & Wesson lost nearly $300 million in market value over the last three days. Who needs to buy another gun now that the gun-grabbers have been banished for good?
Except they haven’t been banished at all. Just because the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the Constitutional right to own a gun, doesn’t mean there’s any Constitutional requirement to buy a gun. So it’s back to the drawing board, this time with a sharpened understanding that social change, serious social change, profoundly serious social change is never a process that takes place overnight. The task is long, arduous and rife with unanticipated twists and turns of all kinds. So if you came into this process because someone promised you a rose garden, you should have stayed home.
After all, what are we talking about when we use the term ‘gun violence?’ Most people define it by the number of victims killed (35,000+) or injured (75,000+) each year with guns. But it’s much more than that. Guns, owning guns and using guns represents a national culture in this country, one of the most powerful and deep-rooted cultural traditions that this country ever had. And I’m not just thinking about Kit Carson and Daniel Boone using their Kentucky long rifles to open the frontier, or General Patton saying that the M-1 Garand was the “greatest battle implement of all time,” or Clint sticking his 44-magnum in the bad guy’s face and saying, “Go ahead, make my day.” No other country celebrates Christmas by sticking a b-b gun under the Yule tree, no other country spends upwards of $6 billion each year on video games that let someone shoot someone else with a Glock. And of course this is the only country in the entire world which gives just about all its citizens free access to real guns.
And that’s exactly the point. Because there would be no gun violence, not a single death or injury, if there were no guns. So we can argue amongst ourselves about which regulation or which law will reduce gun violence a bit here or there. And I’m not trying to say or imply that new regulations are no better than no regulations at all. What I am saying is that really reducing gun violence will require a massive cultural change, and it’s not the kind of cultural change which GVP advocates blithely refer to when, for example, they throw up the ‘success’ of something like MADD.
Because nobody in their right mind would ever argue that getting into a car drunk is a good thing. But plenty of Americans, probably a majority of Americans, now believe that owning a gun makes you safe. So changing this culture is not just changing how we think about guns, it’s changing how we think about why we need to have guns, and you don’t change culture by citing this statistic or that.
A solid piece of new research shows that 10 million gun owners have entered the gun market over the last 20 years. These people, and the folks who may be thinking about coming into the gun market perhaps represent a population whose views on gun culture are not yet firmly fixed. Gun-sense Nation needs to reach this audience and help create an alternate culture in which guns are neither necessary or even relevant to the real issues faced by people in their daily lives. And this task lies ahead.