From the Editor: This Is Not A Culture War

posted on September 21, 2022
Frank Miniter

It is tempting to think of the struggle to keep—or, in too many cases, to win back—our Second Amendment freedoms as a culture war. But an analysis of the numbers disintegrates that claim.

Before tackling the telling statistics, it is worth noting the gun-control groups like the culture-war claim. They need to frame this as a culture war, because a cultural struggle implies that gun control, like other social movements, will slowly win over time. This is why they so often speak of this issue in “evolutionary” terms. 

The thing is, the numbers show this to be a war of a comparatively small number of “elites” against the people as a whole; whereas a real culture war needs two distinct sides. 

This isn’t how gun-control groups and their supporters in the mainstream media, Hollywood and the political class want this issue to be thought of by the American public; as an elite-against-the-people reality implies the elite will lose this freedom issue over time in a democratic republic—which is what has been happening thanks in no small part to this civil-liberties association.

A we-the-people-versus-a-few-elites situation also isn’t helpful to their efforts to gain control of the American people. Imagine a gun-control-preaching college professor raised in the 1960s, an academic clinging to a tenured position in an ivory tower today, and you can see and feel why these elites would writhe and squirm if forced to confront this reality.

This is also why, as we trek closer to this midterm election on Nov. 8, the gun-control groups want this freedom issue framed as a “safety issue,” with gun control as the solution; as in, if the elites just had the power to ban, confiscate or deeply restrict the use of firearms, they could save the people. That’s nonsense, of course, as history shows again and again that disarmed peoples are not and do not remain free; “safe” is not an adjective the people of Venezuela, to give one example, would now use to describe their situation.

Now, to get to the numbers. As I said, a culture war, to be a culture war, needs two distinct sides, whereas Americans in every demographic own guns today. 

We, thankfully, don’t have concrete numbers on the number of citizens who choose to own guns. But gun-sales numbers over decades, along with other data, makes it a safe estimate that over 100 million Americans now own more than 400 million guns. There are about 332 million Americans, but there are only about 258 million American adults, so perhaps half, or nearly that many, of the American citizenry has chosen to own a gun.

Indeed, an estimated 18.5 million citizens bought guns in 2021 alone, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). This was the second-highest annual figure ever, behind the 21 million who bought guns in 2020; in fact, at least 5.4 million Americans became first-time gun owners in 2021 alone, according to data from the NSSF.

The NSSF also now says that American citizens own about 24.4 million AR-type rifles. It is safe to say that about half of Americans’ guns are likely semi-automatic designs. 

The popularity of this right is related to the need for safety, as most new gun owners say they decided to buy a firearm for self-defense. 

So, if gun-control advocates were honest, they’d look at these facts—and all the data behind what actually makes Americans safer—and demand that armed criminals be prosecuted. They would, in sum, get on the law-and-order bandwagon in what must be a law-and-order election. 

But they can’t, as control is what they’re really after.


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