The Decline of Guns

A while back I started a four-part series for Think Progress on the National Rifle Association and the state of the gun debate in America, which finishes up today. In the first three installments (here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I detailed how the NRA's electoral power is largely a myth. Contrary to popular belief, their money doesn't get candidates elected, their endorsements almost never matter, and the stories they tell about their history—that they won the House for Republicans in 1994 and the White House for George W. Bush in 2000—are almost certainly false. In today's final installment, I discuss gun ownership and public opinion, and there are some facts that may be surprising. The one that grabbed me was this: gun ownership has been falling for years, and shows no signs of abating. Here's a chart I made using General Social Survey data:


This decline is occurring among all age groups, and across all birth cohorts. Furthermore, the people who are most likely to own guns are white males in rural areas, and in a country that's becoming more urban/suburban and less white, that decline is likely to continue. The fastest growing demographic group—Latinos—has among the lowest rates of gun ownership.

In the face of those changes, it's no wonder that the NRA perennially warns its members that if Republicans lose the next election, jackbooted government thugs will come to take everyone's guns away. They need to keep their constituency riled up and fearful. But perhaps elected officials don't need to be so afraid of the gun issue.

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