Monday, April 27, 2015

People Are Buying More Guns - Here's Why

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday. April 27, 2015

GOUVEIA: Here's why more people are buying guns

Nation does about face on owning weapons in a span of eight years
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size
Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015 11:45 pm | Updated: 11:48 pm, Sun Apr 26, 2015.
"The number of gun licenses in area communities has declined significantly since the start of the decade, a product, say law enforcement officials, of changes in gun culture, higher fees and tighter regulations on who can get gun permits."
- From a Sun Chronicle story by Rick Foster on Aug. 20, 2007.
"From 2013 to 2014, all but five Massachusetts' 351 communities saw an increase in the number of active Class A licenses (licenses to carry), and the number of Class A licenses has increased in all but two towns since 2008."
- From a Sun Chronicle story by Paige Allen on April 22, 2015.
The two excerpts above - separated by less than eight years - detail a fairly dramatic shift in attitudes toward some types of gun ownership. More people are buying guns, carrying guns, and probably firing guns. Without making a value judgment as to whether or not that is a good or bad thing, the question it raises is - why?
That depends on who you ask. There is no single reason. Different circumstances and events have contributed to form the public's feelings and actions concerning guns over the last eight years. But there are a few factors that have undeniably and directly influenced this surge and increased support for less-regulated gun ownership. Let's review them here, not necessarily in order of impact.
1. The NRA has perfected the politics of hate and fear.
While they certainly didn't invent it, the NRA and its leadership have transformed fear and hatred into an art form. No one is better at it.
They prey on the insecurities and distrust in people, while claiming to be about freedom, liberty and patriotism. Their blatant intimidation of most members of Congress is a powerful testament to their unflinching dedication of purpose. They have the money and the power, and they control the legislative process when it comes to guns. And most importantly - they are only growing in strength and influence.
2. There is a Democratic president and a Republican House.
This reason is directly connected to the first. Barack Obama has done little to nothing to toughen gun control regulations. Yet the mere fact he is perceived as being liberal is enough ammunition for the Gun Lobby to energize its conservative base. And the majority of House Republicans are anxious to prove to primary voters they are conservative enough. Nothing does that more effectively than coming out for the American weapon of choice - guns.
3. The recent recession made people even more distrustful of government.
Some of our biggest institutions failed us, and government stepped in with involvement at unprecedented levels. Many people began to believe their own lives were truly beyond their control, and they revolted by rejecting further perceived intrusions into their personal liberties.
4. The terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.
There is no argument that this mass shooting of elementary school children and staff had tremendous impact on the issue of gun control nationwide. However, it did not move public opinion or actions in the direction many had anticipated.
The Gun Lobby made a critical and politically wise decision in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. Rather than backing off and riding out what many saw as the inevitable public mood swing toward enacting new restrictive gun laws, they came out on the offensive.
The NRA and others told people that not only were guns not to blame for the killings, but in fact more guns would have prevented them. They suggested arming teachers and other school personnel, not limiting the ability to purchase assault-style weapons.
And it worked. It continues to work.
Americans were told tragic events like this would result in their complete inability to own firearms. They were warned mass shootings were going to be cited as reason for the government to come and take away their guns. They were told to run out and purchase now, protect yourselves and your families, get your permits before it is too late.
Will things swing back the other way? Eight years from now, will there be a story about how gun registration is dropping?
There's no way to tell. But one thing is certain. For the foreseeable future, guns will continue to affect both politics and social attitudes.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.commandfollowed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

No comments: