Do Americans under 30 really hate guns?
Earlier this year, victims of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting engaged in class walkouts to protest the supposed “easy access” to guns after a disturbed gunman’s six-minute murder spree. They were openly embraced by gun control advocates and anti-gun politicians, prominently featured and promoted by the media, and lauded as the “fierce voice” of the next generation that would “finally act” on gun control and maybe even turn elections.
What followed was the sort of inconsistency one might expect from turning control of a public policy debate over to minors. The junior advocates argued that citizens under the age of 21 shouldn’t have guns because they’re impulsive, irresponsible, emotional and incapable of understanding the implications of their actions—while simultaneously suggesting we hand people in that very demographic control of our constitutional rights.
Sound And Fury
One of the lead protesters compared the movement to a teenager’s aptitude with technology. “When your [expletive] parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the [expletive] phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a [expletive] democracy, so we have to.”
Having endorsed the abrogation of constitutional rights, advocates then claimed that the school’s new clear backpack requirement violated constitutional rights to privacy. “Why are you punishing me for one person’s actions?” one student complained. (Perhaps the Founding Fathers didn’t have backpacks in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment?)
Not every student took a militant anti-gun stance. Kyle Kashuv, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, argued that they were failed by the authorities responsible for enforcing gun laws, telling cbs, “I looked at all the facts and they all point in the same direction that a ban on assault weapons will not solve this issue.”
Elsewhere in the school, a teacher spoke on condition of anonymity, telling the NRA’s Dana Loesch that the nation wasn’t hearing from students actually imperiled by the Valentine’s Day tragedy, noting that many students have privately expressed that the advocates don’t speak for them.
Early anti-gun protests in Stockton, Calif., actually turned violent, with several students being arrested after impeding traffic, throwing rocks at police vehicles and even assaulting police officers.
Smaller, more peaceful pro-gun demonstrations from other high schoolers were given barely a quiet nod from reporters.
The protests culminated in the so-called March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., fueled by a ton of media publicity and participation from Hollywood elites like Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Fallon and George Clooney, as well as musical a-listers like Kanye West, Paul McCartney and Demi Lovato. The march claimed 850,000 participants, yet area news agencies reported a more modest 200,000.
Ironically, one demographic was surprisingly absent from the high school march—high schoolers. Researchers estimated the average adult participant’s age to be 49, with a majority being motivated by opposition to President Donald Trump more than gun violence. Only 10 percent of marchers were under 18.
Despite claims the march was organized “for kids and by kids,” fact checkers noted most of its organizers were seasoned, out-of-town activists. The march was funded and supported by groups such as Greenpeace, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and of course Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
In the end, viewers were left with a march that was neither reasonable nor grassroots—and a dubious legacy to follow. In fact, for all the sound and fury, the generation hailed as the one to end gun violence might be disrupting the narrative of wholesale anti-gun allegiance.
Generation Y’ers or millennials—the generation born between 1980 and 2000—have proven frustratingly non-compliant with the anti-gun bias that progressives have attempted to cultivate. Despite attending the anti-gun incubators of public universities, millennials’ politics have confounded experts by being friendlier toward firearms than expected.
Polling by Gallup has shown only half of Americans under the age of 35 support more gun control, and that millennials statistically aren’t more likely than their forebears to support gun control. Another devastating Gallup poll showed two-thirds of millennials believe concealed carry made them safer.
“Sometimes people surprise us, and this is one of those instances that we don’t know why,” Gallup’s editor-in-chief explained to NPR.
Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center’s rolling polls of both the under-30 and Generation y numbers (different classifications for essentially the same demographic) show a years-long rise in support for firearm ownership and a steady decline in millennial opposition.
One survey indicates one in four millennials has purchased a gun, while other data from Pew reports a full 43 percent of Americans under 30 own (or live with someone who owns) a gun—the highest demographic except for adults 65 and older.
A November 2017 Quinnipiac poll found that a majority of respondents ages 19-34 agreed criminals would find a way around new laws. Respondents were also least likely to favor a ban on “assault weapons” or rapid-fire conversion devices such as bump stocks—matching an earlier poll from Pew with similar results. (Lead marchers dismissed the polls as biased.)
While journalists quickly exploited reactionary surveys supporting gun control, experts say the effect might be short-lived. “What we’re hearing now in the immediate aftermath of Parkland might not be representative of what a whole generation feels,” Pew’s director of social trends research told NPR.
“Their Time Is Here”
It’s not clear why millennials diverge from the narrative. Some theorize they’re less trusting, especially of government. Others note some polls show they identify as more conservative. Maybe they’re trying to make concessions to the cacophonous protests that prioritize volume over coherence. Maybe some are adopting the elitist “me but not thee” approach to guns hypocritically exemplified by anti-gun elites at the march.
Or maybe they just want to be able to protect themselves and their families without being targeted by accusatory politicians, judgmental celebrities and indignant high schoolers.
Another devastating Gallup poll showed two-thirds of millennials believe concealed carry made them safer.
After all, plenty of Americans grew up in homes with guns. They’ve been exposed to hunting, and their participation in high school shooting sports is soaring. What’s more, millennials have come of age at the same time as the concealed-carry movement. Thanks to 30 years of gun rights victories from the 1980s to today, concealed-carry laws, applications and licensees have skyrocketed. Spending time around armed civilians in an armed society is a powerful antidote to the Left’s powerhouse of emotional rhetoric. And in the midst of record gun sales, America continues to witness record lows in violent crime and murder.
“Our research shows that shooters in the millennial age bracket are less likely to have grown up around firearms than previous generations,” said Michael Bazinet, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Speaking with America’s 1st Freedom, Bazinet said millennial shooters are also more likely to be urban/suburban, more likely to be female and non-white than established shooters, and also more likely to use modern sporting rifles.
“We also know that millennials like options and want to self-direct,” Bazinet said. “They don’t want to be told what to do.”
It’s an ideal time for them to enter the shooting sports, he said, because of the wide variety of product offerings, choice of accessories and add-ons, and newer range technology that offers a great experience.
“In short, their time is here.”
Millennials Weigh In
Stephen Feltoon was a founding member and spokesman for Students for Concealed Carry while in school. He shrugs off the title of millennial, but notes that youth advocacy can create an exaggerated sense of self-importance that time and maturity can temper.
“When you’re younger and someone thrusts a microphone in your face, it’s easy to think what you’re saying matters and that a lot of people are listening,” he said. “But the microphones tend to go away, and you start to learn what it actually takes to make a difference. It’s more than just a good sound bite.”
A former firearm retail employee, Feltoon works these days as a respiratory therapist as he prepares for graduate school. “As you grow, you think bigger picture,” he said. “The truth is some of these youths will wake up one day and realize they’re being fed lies and see the world for how it really is. For now, they’re just the noisiest wheel.”
“The truth is some of these youths will wake up one day and realize they’re being fed lies and see the world for how it really is.”
World-class competitive shooter Lena Miculek said there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about shooters under 30. The 23-year-old daughter of renowned competitive shooter Jerry Miculek has lost count of her title wins, but estimates them at more than 60, including seven world titles in five different disciplines.
“I shot my first competition when I was 8 years old,” she said. “Back then, I got an award for being the youngest shooter. Now they have an entire division for kids that age. There’s a lot of junior shooters out there.”
Some, like her boyfriend Hunter Cayll (a competitive shooter known affectionately to some as “Nubs,” due to being born without hands) got into shooting competitions through video games. For others, she said, it’s the uptick in extreme sports. “We’re pretty hardcore adrenaline junkies as a generation. Shooting is a way you can get a good adrenaline high in competition, and there are more types of competition that allow that,” she said. “Competitors are actually getting younger and younger, and shooting is more inviting to the younger demographic.”
Does Miculek think competition shooters are ruffled by the recent political firestorms?
“Not really,” she replied. “My parents have seen a lot of uprisings and rebellions against the Second Amendment. It’s not really shocking to them anymore. I’m attentive, but I can’t worry too much about it or watch every single debate. Instead I just focus on what I do. I get to travel the world and meet people from every country, all backgrounds, all demographics. This is what I get to do for a living, and I really, really love that.”
Antonia Okafor, 28, started out as a progressive Obama voter, but after examining the facts, she became a vocal advocate for gun rights, and she now conducts speaking tours on college campuses.
“I’m very optimistic about millennials, and even the younger generation,” she said. “I’m interfacing with both generations in my tours, and what I hear is more young people want to be involved in activism and don’t know how to. You assume on campus that everyone is a liberal, but a lot of them have more pro-gun leanings, don’t know how to express them and have incentive to keep quiet because of the media.
“We’re the silent majority, but we feel sometimes like we’re the underdog.”
Okafor continued: “We grew up with Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. We’re intelligent enough to see there’s no correlation between gun control and lower crime. Fewer millennials think gun control is the answer.
“I get to see the future of gun rights at a level that transcends age and political ideology. I’m very optimistic that students have had enough and want to represent themselves. I think we need more speaking out, more organizing, and more equalizing of the voices that are heard.”
Students and teachers in Florida have ample reason for anger in the wake of the Parkland shootings. A retrospective look at events shows a clear trail of missed warning signs. The shooter was known to be socially isolated and mentally disturbed, engaging in acts of animal abuse and self-mutilation. He experienced the loss of both parents, struggled academically and behaviorally, and was ultimately expelled. Police were called to his home 45 times for violent behavior, and he was twice reported to the FBI for threatening a school shooting. Classmates joked that he would be the one to shoot up the school. On the day of the shooting, three sheriff’s deputies and a school resource officer broke protocol and hid, waiting for the killer to run out of bullets or victims rather than confronting him.
Everyone makes mistakes. But systemic failure from the FBI, local police, social workers, school board and armed deputies warrants indignation and demands accountability. No one informed of the shooter’s condition would have endorsed his “right to bear arms.” That many agencies don’t have the right to commit monumental error and then blame the NRA.
It’s essential to note that the First Amendment protects the rights even of uninformed protests contrived by professionals. But it’s also important to understand that certain voices are amplified not for any high-minded notions of “listening to the children,” but because these “children” are an effective carrier for an agenda. They can’t engage in the nuances of gun laws or public policy. Reporters shield them from tough questions, and criticize those that ask them.
Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson warned against victims being used as ideological human shields, remarking, “Just like the terrorists in the Middle East surround their hideout with women and children, so if you bomb the hideout you kill these innocent people, the ‘social justice warrior’ types do exactly the same thing. They find a hypothetically vulnerable group and they use them as a protective shield while they move incrementally forward, so that if you object suddenly you’re picking on the poor vulnerable people.”
Youth participation must be welcomed and encouraged, but tempered with an obliging nod toward inexperience.
Speaking of the millennial generation, The Washington Post branded their support for gun rights as “mysterious,” acknowledging that it “does not bode well for liberals hoping that the arc of history will eventually bend toward greater gun control.”
It might bode poorly for criminals or political special interests pursuing a state monopoly on force. But for parents, legislators and the NRA, it’s encouraging that the generation we’ve helped defend is now growing up to defend themselves. Given the surge in web searches, memberships and donations to the NRA shortly after the shooting, as well as a spike in gun purchases in Florida, it’s clear that gun owners of all generations won’t be scapegoated, and they are too passionate about sports and self-defense to surrender their enthusiasm or resolve.
David Burnett is a critical care registered nurse based in Lexington, Ky., the former president of Students for Concealed Carry, and a frequent contributor to America’s 1st Freedom.