Since Trump's election, gun purchases by White men have plummeted, while sales to African-Americans, gays and lesbians are way up.
Why do people buy and own guns?
For all the vitriolic debate over the sources of gun violence, and ways to prevent it, few liberals seem to know the answer.
Fear is the most obvious reason. It could be a well-grounded fear based on a person’s actual experience or on published crime statistics. Or the fear may be totally amorphous and unfounded. It turns out that some people experience a paranoid and irrational fear of crime. There’s even a name for it — “scelerophobia”.
On the other hand, many people truly enjoy guns — not just owning, but shooting them — for quite different reasons.
Research by the Pew Charitable Trusts indicates that residents of rural areas — 46% of whom own guns, compared to just 19% of city dwellers — want their guns primarily to hunt or sport-shoot. In rural areas, hunting, especially, is still considered a “sacred tradition.”
Self-righteous liberals are generally hostile to the practice of killing wildlife. The idea that poor people in rural areas might want to shoot animals — often to eat them and supplement their food purchases — is completely foreign to their more affluent urban experience.
And most cities don’t have firing ranges. In fact, many gun-control opponents have never even held a gun, let alone fired one, and can’t distinguish one gun from another. On the whole, liberals find guns — the very idea of them — abhorrent.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the liberal gun-control argument is so sweeping and dismissive, and in the end, so unconvincing. Ownership of guns makes gun violence, including accidental gun violence, far more likely, liberals say. Without gun ownership, there simply wouldn’t be any gun violence. So take away the guns.
It’s hardly that simple. Guns are already widely distributed. “Gun control” as we now conceive it – banning the sale and use of certain kinds of guns, from small handguns to assault rifles — may deter some people from buying and using them. But it will not take these guns out of circulation.
And no gun control policy will deter criminals from using guns to commit crimes. That old saying — “If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” – is undoubtedly true. It’s also true that under strict gun control — including a ban on manufacture as well as sale and distribution — law enforcement will still have guns, but the average citizen won’t.
In a democracy, is that really such a good idea?
Opponents of gun control are fond of pointing out that many and perhaps most people that commit mass shootings go after people and places where gun ownership and use is restricted. The shooters know that they will not face armed opposition there.
And they generally don’t, until law enforcement arrives, usually well after the carnage has occurred.
That doesn’t mean we should arm school resource officers, much less teachers, as some gun proponents suggest (though many school districts are doing just that). More armed guards might not spur more gun violence, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll deter a determined attacker, either
There’s a real irony to this entire debate. Mass shootings, for all their horror and increasing incidence, and the extraordinary media spotlight shined upon them, still account for a relatively small share of gun violence in America today.
Moreover, mass shootings don’t always involve the weapons that gun opponents find so objectionable – military assault rifles like AR-15s, for example. Often the attackers use shotguns, hunting rifles and handguns, and they still manage to kill large numbers of people.
In fact, you do not even need guns to inflict mass terror and violence. Consider the Boston marathon attackers, who used homemade bombs. Other attackers may simply use knives. Against unarmed defenders, they can inflict bodily harm on a sizable scale in a matter of minutes.
Gun supporters like to say: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” It’s true. It’s also true that “sensible” gun control – including measures the National Rifle Association supports — might keep the number of casualties down.
But fear may still be the biggest factor to contend with. And under President Trump, that fear is spreading to the very liberals that have traditionally supported gun control.