Open Thread On Cultural Shifts

I’ve often wondered about the rapid shift in the center of our issue to more strongly favor gun rights over gun control. It happened very quickly. In the space of just a bit more than a decade, we went from the high water mark for the gun control movement to the gun control movement being at death’s door, and needing to reinvent itself to achieve relevance.

I’ve seen some data that shows a generation gap on the issue, with the very old tending to favor gun control at a greater rate than other age demographics. This leads me to a postulate: the Greatest Generation were considerably more supportive of gun control than Baby Boomers and subsequent generations are. The shift in the center that’s happened in the issue has come about because the Greatest Generation has largely died off in the past decade.

Another postulate: if there was a generational shift in the issue, to what extent did racism and xenophobia play into it? Using my grandparents as my example from that generation, they were far more openly racist than is socially acceptable today. To what extent did support for gun control by older generations exist because of social anxieties about blacks asserting their rights and demanding to be treated as equal members of society, along with the social unrest that went with that?

Keep in mind I’m speaking generally, and there have always been a separation between elites and ordinary people. But I think it’s a safe observation to suggest that elites in the 30s through 60s were considerably more supportive of gun control than they have been since. Another postulate I would put out there is that our current success is not so much driven by a generational change, as the fall of the Northeast as an economic and cultural center, and the rise of the South, Midwest, and Mountain States, which have never had a cultural inclination toward gun control. In short, Southern elites are not out-eliting our elites, which I consider a good thing.

55 thoughts on “Open Thread On Cultural Shifts”

  1. You don’t mention a supreme court decision which effectively says to people, “No, you aren’t on par with child predators. You are exercising a fundamental right.” I think this is fundamentally going to change the nature of the “conversation” around gun control, to borrow the phrase.

    Additionally, the prior generation was never bit by the gun control they supported at the time. The laws were put in place but never enforced the way they are today. I can’t tell you how many FIPs exist out there in free states who are not getting caught because they haven’t bought a gun post NICS. These are otherwise law abiding people who have issues in their pasts that have long been forgotten but have only recently been digitized and in NICS.

    In MA, the vast majority of people bit by these laws are people who supported them. A lot of old guys. One stole a chicken as a 10 yr old. FIP. Here they are getting caught up because of the universal licensing requirement requires them to reapply every 6 years.

    The best thing that can happen to us is the feds and states enforce all of the laws they have on the books.

    1. Errr, this major shift was largely complete by the time Heller was decided in 2008.

      1. I beg to differ. There are massive numbers of people buying guns today who never had them. That trend started late in the decade, not early.

        1. Correlation does not equal causation, so this remains a debatable point.

          Certainly, something very big has been happening after the first period of fear of the unknown incoming and new Obama administration passed. I think it has more to do with two things, changing demographics and the nationwide shall issue sweep, and general fear of what’s going to happen due to various unsustainable things Obama has exacerbated like annual Federal deficits, but I certainly can’t make a case against your point.

          Or at least I don’t know anyone who’s attitudes were affected by Heller, but that’s a bit like the semi-apocryphal “No one I know voted for Nixon“.

  2. Information. When someone says “More guns lead to more deaths” then people look at it and say “Well, that makes sense!” EVERYBODY was saying that. The difference is the flow of information. With the advent of the internet, people can discuss the issues with others and say “Well, is this true?” I don’t think John Lott would have been able to do proper research for his book without it, in fact. When you have information freely available, people no longer follow like sheep. What was once taken as GOLD when spoken by the Bradys is now circumspect because of the available information and those willing to hunt for it.

    The Baby Boomers don’t use the internet NEARLY as much as the current crop of young adults. They’re NOT going to be as widely versed in doing their research there. They are dying off and the population is still growing. Obviously this is because the birth rate of those being born in the information age are outpacing those dying off from the word-of-mouth age.

    1. I seriously doubt scholarly studies had much of a direct effect on public opinion. The biggest thing I see is the nationwide sweep of shall issue regimes, and I’ll note that started with Florida in 1987, before this cultural shift really got started. That was in a time of high perceived crime rates, and critically it was widely publicized with the usual predictions of doom. Which of course didn’t happen.

      Perhaps the people at large outside that state or beyond bordering ones didn’t particularly notice this, but legislators and supporting gun activists in other states apparently did, with that starting the wave that now has most of the people and the vast majority of states under sane regimes. And I’ll bet that’s been noticed, as each prediction of doom utterly failed to come true.

  3. I don’t really have a theory about that shift, but it certainly exists. Maybe it’s mostly associated with baby boomers, and following generations just don’t have a personal commitment to gun control. Personally, some of my most liberal friends are either gun owners, and others have considered owning guns or have done some shooting with friends/family.

    I also tend to think that the NRA and other pro-2A groups have made enough noise for long enough now that, political ebb and flow aside, guns have become something everyone thinks about, and therefore largely demystified them.

    1. Note that cultural Baby Boomers are now entering retirement, that is to say, if they follow the patterns of previous generations they’re voting in ever greater numbers.

      I suspect their greater need for effective self-defense weapons as their bodies lose their edge is one of the things driving this (see above comments on the shall issue sweep).

  4. Don’t underestimate the role played by the JFK assassination. A lot of people let things slide that they otherwise wouldn’t have. What tipped things in our favor is that the anti’s overreached with the AWB. Americans don’t like being told what they can’t have. When the anti’s finally went for a full on ban, people woke up.

    1. This, and Denise’s comment below make a LOT of sense, along with a shift in where we live. Prior to WWII, the U.S. was for the most part an agrarian society, and the guns that people owned reflected that fact. As we moved into cities, we didn’t need the double-barrelled scattergun as much on the farm, and we were willing to give those up.

      Then we realized there are wolves in the city as well as the country, and guns became needed for something other than hunting animals.

  5. My father was of the “Greatest Generation.” He owned guns, but had little use for handguns. He did not support gun control as such, but he was not an NRA member either.

    I have talked to my father and others of his generation about guns. I’ve read as well. Many of them were tired of war. For instance, my father, a B-17 pilot, had his co-pilot wounded right next to him and lost a waist gunner to the same shrapnel burst. Others saw people blown up, or up close and personal in their rifle sights.

    After the war, they hoped to create a better society for their kids and grandkids. They wanted no more war and no more violence. Some of them targeted what they saw as the instruments of violence.

    Banning guns was a silly idea, but some people believed that “our government needs to do something.” That belief is the most dangerous thing there in the world. It has lead to more curtailments of liberty than almost anything else I can think of.

    1. This. My farther was the same generation (B-24’s) and very active in the local Republican Party. He believed we had a right to own a black power musket and that’s it.

    2. Hmmm, never thought about it before, but my father was much the same, he served in WW2 as a engineer, and never really talked about it. So I assume he didn’t want to remember what happened.
      He too had a shotgun, a 22 rifle, and a couple of old muzzleloaders (that he sold for $20 bucks a piece, stupidly) but he never had a handgun that I know of. Not sure why other than we lived in NJ, was NJ always a bastion of gun grabbers?

    3. I think the idea of blaming guns and focusing on eliminating them to eliminate violence looks more silly in retrospect than it did at the time. So I give people of that generation a bit of a pass on it. What bugs me is the refusal to look at what we’ve actually learned from gun prohibition in cities like Chicago and New York. But they won’t. They might have had a theoretical justification back then, but now it’s little more than “guns are icky and make me feel bad, therefore you can’t have them.”

  6. I think the biggest difference is the Internet. Back in the bad old days, a vicious circle was at work: the MSM would present something as a Valid New Concern, and a Consensus Position would develop. Therefore, someone like Clinton could run on the platform, “I’m a moderate Democrat. I don’t support radical positions like gay marriage or abolishing the death penalty, just good, centrist positions like gun control.”

    With the declining power of the MSM, there’s no longer a consensus opinion about what “centrist” means, so people are more likely to consider each issue individually. Even people who are naturally sheep don’t know which sheepdog or wolf to follow. Therefore, what before 1999 was a paradigm similar to a high school popularity contest–in which the most connected people carry the day–is now a paradigm more akin to “Ask the Audience” on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” in which facts matter.

  7. I’m inclined to go with Tango’s hypothesis that it is information availability. The hypothesis of generational differences implies people don’t and/or can’t change their opinions. Is this valid?

    Another hypothesis is that the success of the anti-gun people awakened people to the threat. Sure, machine guns were (essentially) banned in ’86 but there wasn’t the big public fight over that like there was the AWB. The AWB really got people’s attention as it was ban on guns that millions of people owned. As I and others have mentioned before, the anti-gun people’s biggest successes were the seeds of their failure.

    I’m not convinced the Heller decision changed public opinion much. Sure, there was correlation there but I suspect the causation was in the other direction. I would be willing to bet (and I am exceedingly conservative in my bets) that the majority of people were of the opinion that the 2nd Amendment was/is an individual right even though a majority also were in favor of some restrictions on that right.

    Another thing to look at is how fast things have changed on other issues. Recreational drugs were essentially mainstream or at least mostly tolerated in the ’60s and we went to no-knock warrants by the ’80s. Respecting the rights of blacks and gays was a fairly rapid phenomenon as well.

    Perhaps still another thing to consider is that our political system is very non-linear. It is almost binary. You, essentially, either have the vote to get what you want or the other side has the votes to get what they want. If you are only slightly in the minority you can see “the end of the world as we know it” but that enables fund-raising and activates the grassroots. If you are successful in activating then you have a majority and your side can dominate.

    Lots of stuff to talk about here. This could be one of those “talk to dawn discussions”.

    1. I think the Information hypothesis makes a lot of sense. I should probably note that I’m not sold on any of these being true, or really any one factor accounting for it all… just things I’ve thought about.

      But I do think what denise_was_here mentioned above, about the effects of the war, is also something I’ve thought about. It’s an interesting point. Of course, soldiers coming back from our current wars don’t seem to be phobic to guns as a whole. But most of them volunteered. It’s probably different when you’re using conscription, and just about everyone is compelled to go.

      1. The difference between Iraq/Afghanistan is the amount of bloodshed and where it happens in relation to the person.

        Today, people do die by the dozens/hundreds. But it happens on a computer monitor or 30,000 feet above ground, for the most part.

        In WWII, OUR GUYS were dying by the hundreds trying to take beach heads in Normandy and the Pacific Islands. HUNDREDS of your buddies falling to their faces all around you. I suspect that’s why it affected the Greatest Generation more than it is affecting our soldiers and Marines today.

      2. I also have to wonder about the effects of war. My immediate thought is to ask if the attitudes of the returned soldiers and “folks back home” are shaped by the answer to the question, “What’s being used to kill our troops?” (or at least, what’s the MSM saying is killing our troops).

        In the World Wars, it was rifles, handguns, grenades, etc. In Korea and Vietnam, it was AK-47s. Sure, our boys used the same types of weapons to protect themselves, but that’s small consolation (VERY small) to those whose family and friends didn’t return home.

        In Iraq and Afghanistan, if the MSM is to be believed, most casualties seem to be from road-side IEDs, RPGs, and suicide bombers. The rifles and pistols – the staple weapons of BOTH SIDES of previous conflicts – are now more often portrayed as being used to PROTECT our people, not harm them.

        The long and short is, it’s easy to demonize the types of weapons seen to cause our people harm. I wonder if part of the shift toward supporting gun rights is that guns aren’t generally seen as the problem anymore, on the battlefield OR on our streets. Their defensive value is seen on the battlefield, so the defensive value is also seen at home (unlike grenades, IEDs, and RPGs, which STILL nobody is interested in protecting, 2nd Amendment notwithstanding).

        Just a thought.

        1. I think that’s a very valid thought, and there could be something to it. You see our opponents continually use phrases like “weapons of war,” but when the average person has been reading accounts of attacks on our troops, they have largely been reading about IEDs and the like. So as much as our political opponents are trying to frame it in terms of war, it’s really not the narrative that most are seeing in accounts. Even though I haven’t seen it, I know that one of the big war movies of late has been The Hurt Locker which focuses on a bomb disposal team. So, yeah, I think there’s something to the fact that the MSM and other pop culture references are really focused on the other weapons our enemies are using as opposed to guns.

          1. They do, however, also see pretty much all our men armed with M4s/M16s, right? (And I recently read the Marines are switching to outfitting officers and the like with M4s instead of M92s, “every Marine is a rifleman” and all that.)

            “Weapons of war” those are, but as used by our side—which is not a positive for some, although their overlap is perhaps small with the set of people who are going to learn about firearms in the near/foreseeable future.

            To add to the fun, of the sets of new gun owners, what fractions of them are going the CCW and handgun route, initially completely ignoring long guns? Note that many if not most of them are still potentially drawn into gun politics because they choose or would like to have the option of carrying handguns with > 10 round magazine capacities, witness Emily Miller and her search to find an out of state FFL who’d swap the stock magazines for 10 round ones for her SIG.

            1. I’m in that crowd. My first purchase was a .22 pistol – for plinking and home defense (even a .22 beats a baseball bat from across the room). It was nearly a year before I purchased a long gun (shotgun), and immediately followed that up with another handgun. Even the shotgun, at my insistence, came with a long hunting/sporting barrel and a short defense barrel, the latter of which is most often attached.

              Our first priorities were skill-building and defense. Don’t have a CCW license (yet), but hunting and sport shooting were a distant third behind learning how to protect ourselves and acquiring the tools to do so.

              I read Emily Miller’s reports, and found it hard to believe just how difficult it was for her to arrange for a package with 10-round magazines instead of the stock 13-rounders. I’m thankful our area doesn’t limit magazine capacity for anything except shotgun hunting (limited to 2+1, which I understand is pretty standard). As the late Jeff Cooper (I think) mentioned, I worry more about rounds 1, 2, and 3 in a criminal’s gun than rounds 11, 12, and 13.

  8. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in Los Angeles. All you had to do was read the newspaper to see that gun owners were either out and out criminals, or a tiny minority of law abiding gun owners who would unfortunately have to give up their guns to save society.

    In 1982 the anti-gunners struck. They put Prop 15, the Handgun Registration Initiative, on the ballot. It would have required all handguns be registered, no new handguns be sold, and restricted any handguns from entering the state. It was a dead lock cinch to be passed by popular initiative. Except it went down in defeat 62.8% to 37.2%.

    California Prop. 15 Handgun Registration Initiative

    There never was a widespread desire for gun control. The NRA didn’t personally hold the hands of two thirds of the voting public and force them to vote NO! on 15. They did it all on their own. Before the age of the internet, where it was cheap and easy to get the info.

    This is not a generational shift. It’s just that gun owners are no longer content to hide. They’ve connected online with other gun owners. They’ve seen guns positively portrayed in the news. They’ve heard famous people like Ted Nugent and Tom Selleck say that they are gun owners. So they just stopped hiding their beliefs.

  9. Actually, the initiative Sean Sorrentino mentioned not only went down in flames; it brought down the previously leading candidacy of LA Mayor Tom Bradley, who had endorsed it. The “Bradley Effect” of whites secretly voting against black candidates was a fiction based on this one race. The real “Bradley effect” was the drag that gun control put on candidates who endorsed it.

    Notably, gun control only made progress on those occasions in which the Republicans also supported it, usually at least ostensibly because they wanted to “move to the center.” In reality, I think it was usually just a bitter move made by GOP establishment candidates who really, really hated the grassroots of the party. IMHO, this is actually what I believe Bloomberg is trying to do. He isn’t so much trying to affect the popular opinion on guns so much as he’s trying to keep gun control in the news, so as to get the endorsement of bitter David Frum types and, ultimately, ram a “bipartisan” anti-gun bill through Congress. In fact, considering the fact that he originated as a very left-wing Democrat, I can’t help but wonder if he’s less interested in banning guns, and more interested in destroying the advantage that the GOP gets from this issue.

  10. I agree that information is part of it, and racism is a part of it…but in relation to the JFK comment above, I think there is a broader social context to this.

    I think much of the support for gun control came out of the violent social upheaval of the 60s and 70s. People felt insecure about civil society, the collapse of the family, the collapse of social institutions, the idea of revolution in the street etc…

    Street level violence was no longer something that happened “somewhere else”, it was happening right here at home.

    Some reacted to that with an independent mind, and thus became advocates for bearing arms in self defense.

    The more collectivist minded, or those with a less sanguine temperament, defaulted to the “there oughta be a law” and “someone will protect me” school.

    This was particularly true in the modern urban environment, where the illusion of polite society was strained to its limit. One could not live in New york City, or Cleveland, or Detroit, or Gary Indiana etc… in the late 60s through late 80s; and not believe that you were an inch away from utter collapse of civil society.

    What happened?

    Crime went down, “revolutionaries” got old, and the young folks found xbox and existential ennui. Suburban flight continued. Migration to the sunbelt, and to the outer metroplexes reduced the pressures in the cities as well as the populations…

    This is of course a gross oversimplification, but we could literally write a book on this topic if we wanted to.

    1. “This was particularly true in the modern urban environment, where the illusion of polite society was strained to its limit. One could not live in New york City, or Cleveland, or Detroit, or Gary Indiana etc… in the late 60s through late 80s; and not believe that you were an inch away from utter collapse of civil society.

      What happened?”

      What happened? The baby boom generation got older, out of the prime crime-generating ages. Combine that with a cultural shift to the right (Reagan) and the rise of originialism/texturalism as a way to see the Constitution related to the rise of the right.

      Frankly, texturalism/originalism was always there in the general public, though they didn’t know what to call it. But as those judges who applied that philosophy rose through the ranks (appointed, often, by Reagan) that philosophy began to be applied in the ivory towers of the judicial system. Law schools who previously treated actually acting like the Constitution meant what it said was something only rednecks and heathens did were, in this new age, forced to take such thinking seriously. Old-school liberals still deny this new reality (these are the folks holding on to the “collective militia” theory).

      At about the same time, the internet gave millions, who felt this way but also felt they couldn’t say say so (the MSM ignored such opinions or treated them derisively) the feedback that indeed, others felt the same way. Don’t underestimate blogging as part of that.

      All of these and more are part of the story. But the underlying story, as to firearms, is that the SCOTUS was late to the party. The public overwhelmingly ALWAYS believed that the 2nd am. meant what it said. Heller and McDonald didn’t shape public opinion, they largely reflected it.

    2. OK Chris you opened your mouth so now you have to write the book. As you and others have said it is a number of differant reasons combined for gun control to lose support.
      None of us should think we have won so now we can relax. We still have real enemies out there. Some are pretenting to be one of us. Then there are the fair weather friends who will either turn on us or be AWOL when we need them.

  11. I’m not sure if it’s a shift in the population as much as it has been in the states’ elected representatives. The majority of the population has never really supported gun control laws. The wrangling required to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968, which began the modern gun control movement, broke the country largely down geographic lines, and helped the Democrats lose the South. As Sean points out, when gun control was on the ballot, California voters rejected it.

    The big change regarding guns we’ve seen over the past 20 years has been the liberalization of concealed carry laws at the state level. And that is due to the confidence that the state senators and reps have in being able to write and pass that sort of legislation without fear of losing their seat from anti gun rights fanatics, and knowing they could lose their seat if they don’t support it. If the American public did not have a deep, long-held belief in the right to own guns, you wouldn’t see shall-issue in 40 of 50 states, and may-issue in 9 of the other 10.

  12. I’m going to butcher this explanation…

    Shifts that occur with seemingly unusual swiftness have a lot more to do with people realizing that they aren’t alone in their thinking than suddenly changing their thinking.

    The internet is allowing us to connect to like-minded people faster and more directly than ever before.

    Once people start seeing that others agree despite “popular opinion” eventually a critical mass is reached and popular opinion “suddenly” realigns to the “new” value.

    1. That may indeed be the case. Do you have anything you’ve read that discusses that? Or just a gut feeling? Not that it’s not a good gut feeling. I could see that being the case.

      1. If it was possible to more objectively quantify people’s mind-changes (say, polls through the years?) I think correlation with communication technology would be interesting to investigate.

        The first time I ever saw a walk-up, drop-a-coin-and-use-it photocopy machine was in a college library in 1964. It made negative copies, but you had a hardcopy of the information, and you didn’t have to transcribe it like a scrivener.

        The first time I had access to an open use copy machine, it was a thermal paper copier at a university c. 1970.

        The first freely used, plain paper copier available to me was in industry, beginning in 1973. A good deal of local political activism was supported by those copy machines, on the dime of the defense industry.

        In the early ’80s I first encountered affluent older guys who had purchased used copy machines, for their own use to produce propaganda and private newsletters. The quality was often poor, but the communication was serviceable.

        C. 1987 I purchased my own copier and my own fax machine for the first time. There were many jokes about organizations that consisted of “two guys and a fax machine,” but that really was the first time almost instant, almost mass communications could be carried out between geographically distant groups of like mind, to somewhat coordinate political action and political thinking. The fax machine and lower phone rates also made it possible for “two guys and a fax machine” to fairly economically send a message to every single member of the state General Assembly; more so as soon as fax software on the computer became available. There was a period or perhaps a decade when a tedious, biannual chore was updating the fax numbers for the PA House and Senate.

        There has been sufficient commentary about the internet, above. But my point is, the individual having the ability to engage in some level of unedited mass communications began in the early 1970s and then accelerated sharply in the 1980s, and sharply again in the 1990s. It had to have an influence, but how much is hard to guess.

        1. Note that Reagan and company sent fax machines and copiers to occupied Poland in the ’80s.

  13. You old folks are missing the key factor in my generation’s shift. Video games. They reinstitutionallized guns to my generation and made us want to own them.

    1. An interesting thought. Maybe they replaced the defunct TV Western series, which institutionalized guns for many of us in the 1950s, when almost every Saturday night would find me standing in front of the TV wearing my dad’s Colt .45, waiting for the chance to try fast draw against Matt Dillon at the opening of Gunsmoke.

      When I turned 18 I open carried that .45 for awhile, so there was a direct carry-over. :-)

  14. I think that the second world war had very litle to do with the changing attitudes towards gun control. The vast majority of troops never heard a shot fired in anger, being one of the three or four support troops needed for every grunt on the line. The anti gun movement began in the thirties with the NFA and related legislation. Its thirty year dormancy is more a reflection of the build up, war and aftermath that absorbed the national consiousness for the next two and a half decades. The people pushing gun control achieved what they did because no one really fought them, not that people necessarily supported what they were doing, that all changed one afternoon in Cincinnati with the revolt of the NRA membership calling for a line in the sand to be drawn. What we are seeing now is the law coming to reflect what society wants rather than what a group of liberal elites wants.

    1. Errr, no, the anti-gun movements are more like:

      Pre-civil war, suppress dueling.

      Particularly after the Civil War, keep them out of the hands of blacks. Especially handguns (makes lynching an expensive proposition).

      Around the turn of the century, particularly a bit after, keep them out of the hands of the (wrong) new immigrant groups (e.g. the Sullivan Law).

      The NFA was ostensibly a reaction to the excesses of the Prohibition era (government creates a problem, which of course requires more government intervention); it was rather late to the game, even if it was the first Federal law.

      You probably can’t separate the post-WWII anti-personal self-defense meme from the anti-defense of the nation from nuclear war, something the Soviets worked very hard and rather successfully at.

    2. “The people pushing gun control achieved what they did because no one really fought them. . .”

      I’m tempted to say “I beg to differ with you,” but I won’t, because once again I don’t have the data to quantify causes and effects. But for the historical record, I well remember that c. 1961 – 1963, Guns & Ammo Magazine carried on a pretty spirited anti-gun-control campaign, in which you could send in a few bucks for a “kit” that contained bumper-stickers and pasters that said “Support YOUR Right to Keep and Bear Arms!” with the Minuteman logo. I remember that, because for a brief time in my senior year of high school, a lot of girls in my class were pasting my RKBA stickers on their purses and thinking it was some sort of edgy hoot. (If you’re wondering, no, it did NOT help me get to first base — or even up to bat — with any of them.) But that was also a time when they had a mini-fad of carrying little capgun derringers in their purses, that fired greeny-stickum caps, if you remember what those were.

      But in any case, G&A’s propaganda was first-rate, and motivating. The first pro-gun screed I ever wrote was then — for no motivation other than that it was in my head and I had to write it down — and my classmates liked it so much they posted it on the main school bulletin board, where most of the guys signed it, like, “Me Too.” (The Guidance Counselor read it and took it down.)

      But seriously, I think that G&A (and possibly to a lesser extent “Shooting Times”?) laid a foundation that would later be better formalized by the NRA-ILA. There was serious intellectual resistance to the gun controllers, years before the NRA got seriously into the business.

      1. Interesting points about G&A back then. As I recall, it was reading a superb propaganda piece in that magazine a bit more than a decade later (late grade school or thereabouts) that got me started. It detailed the reign of terror the BATF had engaged in after it started running with the GCA of ’68 (a while after the passage from what I’ve read elsewhere, the triggering event was sugar price supports that turned moonshine into more of a hobby than a business; couldn’t let all those revenuers get laid off, could they?).

        I’ve also read issues of the American Rifleman from the ’60s. A very different magazine, much higher quality copy, and they detailed the endless Dodd hearings on what became the GCA of ’68 (that was Dodd the father, brought down by corruption in a more honest age). The magazine, while being mostly focused on “traditional” stuff including the Vietnam War (an infantryman’s war for the most part) most certainly let the membership know the RKBA was in jeopardy.

        1. Thanks for the perspective, all that is well before my time. Every day is a school day as the saying goes.

  15. I think that the racist aspect has it nailed to a very large extent. The greatest generation trusted their government a lot more than we can, both because the government then was MUCH smaller, and the returning veterans took “civic duty” as seriously as they did military duty.

    Back in the day, the people who were denied a firearms permit were mostly black, hispanic, or “not of good family” – i.e. relatives of known criminals. For most people, that was just fine with them. They believed in the benevolence of the much smaller government, because they probably were acquainted with at least some of the local officials – mayor, councilman, whatever. The laws that were already on the books were just begging to be abused (or properly interpreted) by the officials who came along later.

    The Gun Control Act of 1968 was the national equivalent of what was already the law in many states – spelling out who was prohibited person, and that law would never have passed without the hysteria in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassinations. Gun control of free men mostly started after the civil war, and was a continuation of pre-civil-war restrictions on armed slaves. It was primarily targeted toward the newly freed blacks. As much as I deplore the restrictions, I can see that the fear which motivated it (of blacks with guns – ex-slaves with grudges) was real, and probably the fear was justified (not the law, just the fear).

    “Unintended Consequences” by John Ross, has a good account of the origins of gun control and its evolution through the years.

    As to racism, it was more prevalent fifty years ago than you might want to believe. From my childhood I remember derogatory comments about the recently slain Martin Luther King around the Thanksgiving table, and polite discussions around the dinner table about how to tell a black sales clerk that one would prefer to be waited on by a white clerk. My grandfather never used the word “negro” because he preferred the other N word. These are the attitudes which allowed gun control to grow and develop into the massive set of prohibitions we have today.

    In simpler times, teenagers could go buy dynamite and blasting caps at the hardware store, to go play in the woods blowing up trees. Kids could buy guns and ammo, although the dealer might insist on a signed note from a parent, or a phone call. We have lost a whole heap of freedom in the last few generations. We are nowhere near to having all of it back.

    1. My only quibble with what you say about is that the Greatest Generation witnessed the biggest single expansion of government in US history under FDR, or at least came of age immediately after it. And pretty much all of the prestige of that expansion came from the war, with its huge, centralized efforts like the iconic D-Day; most of what FDR did before then was actively harmful and recognized as such by many. I mean, you can’t steal the nation’s gold without people noticing or remembering. Or impose a system where Democrats get to decide how much Republicans can farm. Etc.

  16. Perhaps i have a bit of a different take on it than most. It comes from teaching new shooters in the millennial generation and before (I can never keep up with what is XYZ, and if we ever get back to A). I get friends of friends and do some seminars teaching about safety, basic operation, that sort of thing.

    Those “kids” (18-30) start asking how to get this or that gun, and suppressors, or any sort of thing. And you tell them why they couldn’t, even if they could afford it, purchase the same full auto SCAR from a video game. You tell them the laws, the ins and outs of that legislative battle, and they just look at you and say, “That doesn’t make any sense!”.

    I think many more young shooters are more adept at reasonable arguments if you just provide them the facts. that doesn’t sit well with scare tactics and boogy-men, which are also easily shot down with facts.

    1. […] they just look at you and say, “That doesn’t make any sense!”.

      And unlike, say, the Greatest Generation, I’ll bet most of them have no difficulty believing this of the government’s policies. The former had some great successes to look at, a string which might end with the Apollo program (the successful prosecution of the Cold War was a lot more muddy, and entirely uncelebrated for obvious reasons; heck, if we just look at NASA then vs. later, they know it negligently killed two space shuttles and their crews). The “kids” have grown up with countless government inanities, doubt they’ll ever see a penny back from their FICA “contributions”, etc. etc.

      But they can see the success of “the people” at forcing change, at least as of late (Tea Party and 2010 elections), and if you for example point out it was people like you and them who engineered the nationwide sweep of concealed carry laws….

      1. Actually, if you bring politics into it early, you turn most of them off. You have to get them to the point that they understand the political motive, and not discuss party, let them discover that on their own.

        Most of these kids, if you use the word Tea party, and aren’t talking about dolls and little girls, will take everything you have said, invalidate it, and then shut you out. Its a different mindset and generation to work with.

        And that is the key.. they are not openly politically “conservative”. More socially libertarian, and that does not mix with most of the Tea Party message.

        1. I certainly wasn’t suggesting bringing politics in, well, at all, merely that I thought current politics made them fertile ground for the “government firearms policies don’t make any sense”.

          Yow, it’s sad to hear what you say about them and the Tea Party, it tells you just how far we still have to go in supplanting the MSM (if not removing our current ruling class from power altogether). Since, for example, the “Tea Party” isn’t about social issues at all as they’re usually construed. Absolutely not in the founding, and not as I view Obamacare, their second big issue.

          Our enemies are being all too successful in playing divide and conquer. Although, to again quote Gary North, “You put your children in the hands of the enemy and you’re surprised with the results?” (the public K-12 schools and the nearly indistinguishable colleges and universities).

  17. I think it’s not so much Generational as Event Driven. I think 9/11 showed the Average American that, in spite of all the rules in place, the Bad Guys could still get through. Fast Forward to Katrina, and that Event showed that, in spite of all the rules in place, Big Government Failed again. So, SOME of them realized, that, when push comes to shove, they are on their own, and they better do something about it. But this only applies to those who weren’t comfortable with the Nanny State claiming “Alls Well.”

    What’s the old saying? A Conservative is a Liberal who got Mugged?

  18. I just want to comment to several comments above, that not everyone’s personal perceptions of what FDR did in the 1930s were that they were negative or harmful. My parents were FDR Democrats because they had been living in a squatter’s shack next to the Philly dumps until WPA came along; and my dad would swear they did no shovel-leaning, but instead built infrastructure that fed later economic growth and contributed to the coming war effort.

    My dad’s kid brother did a hitch in the CCCs, and thought it was the greatest time in his life, building roads out near Flagstaff, AZ. When his hitch was up, he came home and found there were still no jobs to be had, so he joined the Army almost seamlessly — when he got to his duty station in the Philippines (where he would later be captured by the Japs and spend the entire war as a POW) he found many of his CCC buddies already there. IMO the CCCs may have been make-work, but they also were our “Jugend” in preparation for the coming war. When my uncle came home he put in a full career in the National Guard; he’d learned to love military life while in the CCCs.

    Neither of those are apologies for FDRs socialist programs; merely statements that a lot of people who benefited from them and thought they saw the collective benefits of them, didn’t see them as negatives; and in general there was no one more anti-collectivist in instincts than my father.

    Some things did change, or maybe some people just came to recognize the truth the hard way. Without going into the story, I was jerked around quite a bit by the Army, as a Vietnam Era conscript; and my father, who’d had great faith in the fundamental integrity of our federal institutions, lost that faith completely, and never regained it before he passed away forty years later. I recognize that as Baby Boomers, our perceptions were steered very strongly by our Vietnam Era experience, whatever is was.

    1. This reply is for Brian S. as well:

      First to that detail, the question of attitudes towards “authority”: what is the younger set’s attitude towards the police? I at least perceive a change in them from when I came of age in the ’70s to today (a very bad one).

      WRT to FDR: at least according to my father, what the CCC did in the West that he’s seen wasn’t “make work”. I.e. it was useful stuff even if not necessarily needed right then. I haven’t heard … anything about “shovel-leaning” in these sorts of programs (although you have to assume there was some of that, human nature and all, but it was very much against the Zeitgeist of the times outside of unions, right?) and they aren’t what I see particularly wrong with FDR pre-WWII.

      That’s stuff that businessmen saw, including the small fry that got persecuted by the Blue Eagle NRA (even more confusingly, they were in our NRA’s building)), the stealing of the nation’s gold I previously mentioned, and to finish, how about all the programs to drive up the price of food—remember those newsreel clips of mass farm animal destruction?—at the same time the USDA thought 1/4 of the nation was malnourished.

      Which was confirmed by the WWII draft and which was a major input into the Federal school lunch program, now a twisted playground of people like Michelle Obama.

      1. I can’t cite any references right now, but I do know a lot of the anti-FDR propaganda of the 1930s referred to WPA workers “leaning on their shovels” and getting paid for it. I think it was still referred to when I was a kid, back in the ’50s.

        Anecdotally, one of the jobs my father remembered doing was tearing out a big field of marijuana that was growing wild, in the swampy area south of Philadelphia.

        His other personal story was, being promised a horsehide work jacket by the WPA, and never receiving it; he claimed because there was ethnic discrimination within WPA, based on who the local administrators were. I of course have no way of knowing whether that perception was accurate, but he claimed certain ethnicities were treated more favorably than others.

        WPA paid $16 a week at the time, which was pretty good; both my dad and his father had been making $14 a week, before losing their jobs in the Depression. (For perspective, I still have a shotgun he bought new for his kid brother in the era, for $7.)

        And last, he claimed that WPA workers were always assigned to locations on the far side of the city from where they lived, and that was an indirect subsidy to the private company that operated the city mass transit (trolley) system at the time. Out of your $16 a week, you’d have to spend a dollar or so to get to work.

  19. From my perspective, I grew up in downstate IL, which is culturally like Indiana but with higher taxes. I graduated high school right at the turn of the millenium, which seems to be roughly the high water mark for the gun control movement. I had always thought that the 2A was an individual right, but never thought anything more about it. It was just assumed to be the logical interpretation. Of course, the AWB had been in effect for several years, and I think that gave guns a certain mystique to many people, myself included.

    One guy would buy a firearm, and all his buddies thought, “Wow… he’s got a gun!” My neighbor was a few years older than me, and he had payed an extremely high price for his mini 14. I remember telling myself that one day I would save up enough money for a mini 14 myself, though I never actually owned a centerfire semi auto until after the AWB expired, and even then I didn’t bother until Obama was elected.

    I think it was a combination of human nature to horde that which may become scarce, as one may see at grocery stores when a hurricane or ice storm threatens, and the propensity of young people especially to equate “banned” with “cool.” By then I think the movement had reached something of a “critical mass” and enough people were owning guns as to be the silent majority at the voting booths.

  20. Best thing that ever happened to the gun rights movement was the assault weapon ban. Please, Mr. President, talk it up again. I don’t worry about one passing (you don’t have the votes, and we both know it) but talk about it will fire up people again.

    And sell a lot of eeeeeeeeeevil black rifles.

    That, in turn will lead to converting lots of folks to our cause. Because the more they learn, the more they will understand the truth. And truth is on our side.

  21. Good reasons. I think the rise of CCW has done a lot to change the argument.

    Consider the “Sporting Purpose” reason to own a gun.

    Take this line from Weer’d Beard:

    “Yep, as soon as we only frame gun ownership in a “Sporting Purposes” test, we’ve lost, because guns indeed are dangerous. We not only have people killed and injured during the sports, but we have people abusing guns and harming and committing crimes.

    To weigh those things against the fun of hunting and sport shooting is simply selfish and foolish, and if that’s the case there is no reason to NO ban guns.

    As soon as we add self-defense and the protection from tyranny, suddenly the argument changes greatly.”

    When guns were seen as merely the tools of a dangerous hobby then bans and restrictions made sense.

    When they’re more seen as a self defense tool bans and restrictions are seen more as the aristocracy keeping the commoners down.

    In personal experience, I was in Buffalo for a wedding. And I found that May Issue was loathed there. Even by the “hipsterish” folks. As long as the person you were talking to was not a red-diaper baby level (with one big exception) people seemed affronted by the idea of “The Man” telling them they couldn’t have a gun. Also discussing the pre-1986 aspect of machine gun ownership boggled them. No no you can’t own that machine gun it’s too new, here have this older one.

    However, that big exception: Canadians. The Fudd is alive in them. They’re all about the “Sporting Purpose” so Pa-Pa’s hunting rifle or Me-Ma’s shotgun is just fine, but a handgun or something with a normal magazine? Well… then you gotta be looking for trouble. It goes to the “Why do you need a gun?”

    In Canada, “Because Fuck you that’s why!” is considered too impolite. And “Because I want to defend myself” is seen as too aggressive. Hell I remember growing up (NJ in the 90’s) that you couldn’t argue that people should have a gun unless it was for historical or hunting or sport purposes.

    That’s what banning carry and self defense does.

    In Canada you can’t use a gun to defend yourself. Their safe storage laws make it a crime to defend your home with a gun, and you can’t get a carry permit.

  22. You know, Sebastian and Bitter, there is an incredible book just waiting to be written on this subject (hint hint)!

    Like Bitter, i was on the front lines for much of it and was lucky to be able to have input on some critical points. I end to see what has happened culturally on guns as a “preference cascade,” or to use an earlier cliche, we reached a tipping point. More than ten years ago Paul Erhardt and I drafted a paper for NSSF on the “normalization of guns in American society.” Much of what we put on paper has come to pass.

    THE RISE OF THE ANTI-MEDIA book has a piece of what happened, but not all of it.

    You guys site the book, and I’ll pre mote the heck out of it!!!

    Michael B

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