Demographics and the NRA’s 'inevitable fall'

The New York Times is a reliable opponent of gun rights, as the recent editorial, “The Concealed-Carry Fantasy,” illustrated.  Identifying the stance of the Times falls into the category of obvious statements like declaring that on a clear day—insert dramatic pause—the sky is blue.  If something is needless to say, why say it?

But once in awhile, the opinion pieces are more than mere background noise and require our attention.  An example of this is the article by Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA, titled, “The NRA will fall. It’s inevitable: Just look at the demographics.”  Winkler argues that gun control is supported by blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, by educated people, and by city dwellers by large margins and that these groups are the growing part of our population.  His conclusion is that people who value gun rights, the NRA particularly, need to compromise to stay relevant.

It’s tempting to dismiss this argument as yet another attempt to make the movement of gun control feel hopeful, but denying reality is never a good idea.  Winkler’s statement about racial change happening in this country is based on good evidence, as is the predicted direction of urbanization in the United States.  Given the obvious direction of technology—this magazine is on-line, rather than in paper, for example—the push to educate the American people can only grow.  If we expect to maintain the legal protection for gun rights, we have to address these anticipated changes.

One answer—strict limits on immigration—may seem the right one, but it’s precisely wrong.  Every argument about immigration control can be applied to gun control just as easily.  How do we keep people or guns out of the country?  Seal the borders, but we’ve never been able to accomplish that in the past.  Our borders are too long, and Americans value their freedom to travel too much.  How do we keep track of persons or things?  Impose registries, except that’s again an intrusion on personal liberties, but also allows our government to confiscate property or deport people—property that was reported or people who complied with the rules, that is.  The fact is that a government that can control one of these, immigration or guns, can control the other to the same degree.

And that’s one argument we need to make clear to our opponents and to ourselves.  The perception regarding advocates is that people who support strict laws in one of these will be in favor of limited regulation, if any, in the other.  But the mechanisms created to impose control of either will be available across legislatures and regulatory agencies to apply generally.

So what do we do?  I see two answers here.  The first is to continue what has been going on in the legislative and judicial branches of government at all levels, namely the push to shore up protection for gun rights and to expand their exercise.  Rights themselves are not subject to majority opinion, but the legal status of rights are always at risk.  In our system of government, we have built-in shields for the rights of minorities, including the ultimate minority of each individual person.  That is one beauty of our way of doing things, and we have to defend this, not just with regard to gun rights, but all rights.

The other answer is to carry on the work of many on our side to grow participation in the owning and using of guns, what I’ve called the big tent of gun ownership.  Reach out to people who are willing to listen, to people who are willing to see past stereotypes.  On that latter point, we must do the same, see past the narrative that people like Winkler want us to believe that gun ownership and gun rights are valued by old, white, uneducated men.

Winkler’s article has to be seen as a challenge.  We can try to wish it away, or we can work to bring in more people of all groups to our side.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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