From The Editor: Of Guns, Polls and Politics

by
posted on January 17, 2024
Frank Miniter

More than half of American voters—52%—say they or someone in their household owns a gun, per an NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll of 1,000 people. This 52% figure is up from 46% in 2019 and 42% in 2013. That signals a lot of growth. National trends don’t usually shift this fast. For comparison, a long-running Gallup survey has the number at 45%, which is up from the high thirties in 2018.

At America’s 1st Freedom, we’ve always been skeptical of polls like these, as it seems logical that such polls would inevitably undercount the number of gun owners; it is difficult, after all, to imagine gun owners telling some stranger on a phone—a person who claims to be a pollster—that they own guns. Most of the gun owners I know would politely decline to be a part of such a survey.

Nevertheless, these polls are interesting because they show real, long-running changes; indeed, it seems reasonable to assume that any reluctance to answer such a question should be consistent, so the trends in these polls (if not the actual figures) surely do matter.

So, okay, according to this NBC News poll, more than half of American voters say they or someone in their household owns a gun. And this is the highest percentage that this poll has found since it began in 1999. This is especially interesting politically, as these gun owners are hardly all Republicans. According to the survey data, 66% of Republicans, 45% of independents and 41% of Democrats now say they have guns in their homes.

Digging deeper, in 2019, 64% of Republican voters reported that their households had firearms in them, compared with 33% of Democrats. In the last four years, the figure for Republicans has risen two points, but it has gone up eight points for those who say they are Democrats.

So, let’s break it down a little more.

In 2019, just 24% of black voters said there were guns in their homes; now it’s 41%—that’s a 17-point rise. It seems obvious that this increase in black ownership is related to self-defense concerns amid rises in urban crime as "woke," George Soros-backed district attorneys have opted not to prosecute many violent offenders and as “bail- reform” laws in some states have let more bad guys walk.

Now, those who have been paying attention to gun sales over the last few decades are probably not surprised by these survey results. Still, some gun-control-promoting politicians might be surprised how these changes impact how voters vote—even in deep “blue” areas.

Therefore, given this growth in gun ownership, might this critical freedom issue once again become more non-partisan (or at least less partisan nationally)? The U.S. Bill of Rights, after all, has long represented our shared values. Call me an optimist, but, whatever someone’s politics, any American should agree with the protections of these fundamental rights; we all benefit from them and enjoy them. There can be—and long have been—nuanced differences of opinion that we work out in the courts, sure, but in essence, the vast majority of us should be starting from the basis that these individual freedoms are a good thing.

It’s exciting to consider that we might again find ourselves in a place where our basic rights to self-defense with freedom’s tool is not on trial in every presidential election. We might then be able to focus more of our public resources on the actual problem (violent criminals), not the natural rights held by we the people.

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