There are plenty of areas among our social issues where conservatives rightly fret over the fact that the rising generation of millennials and our youngest voters skew considerably more liberal. Questions over gay marriage, for example, have a definite generational bias in most polling averages. But when it comes to gun rights is that pattern holding true? There’s a hopeful bit of analysis at the Washington Post today from Catherine Rampell who expresses her confusion (and perhaps dismay?) over the trends indicating that younger people are, if anything, more supportive of gun rights in most instances than their elders.
Which does not bode well for liberals hoping that the arc of history will eventually bend toward greater gun control.
Poll data about views of gun control and specific gun-control measures are mixed, and responses vary depending how questions are asked. But statements about protecting gun rights generally elicit at least as much support from younger Americans as from older ones.
Gallup regularly asks, for example, whether “laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now.” Over the past two years, about 49 percent of American adults under 35 have said they support “more strict” gun laws, compared with 56 percent of those 55 and older.
She goes on to cite several other statistical trends which have held steady for some time now. One of those is the annual Pew question of whether voters find protecting gun rights more important versus other concerns such as limiting access. The millennials are equally on board with gun rights as their elders. But perhaps one of the most shocking ones was this:
On proposed bans of “assault-style weapons ,” though, older people are considerably more supportive, with 63 percent of those 65 and older believing these are appropriate, compared with only 49 percent of people under 30, according to Pew .
I never saw that one coming. Younger voters are even less likely to support a ban on “assault rifles” than older respondents. Color me pleased but surprised.
It’s not all sunny news, though. Millennials are far more supportive of the idea of a national gun owners database being available to the federal government. But why?
Rampell has one theory which may sound a bit cosmetic at first glance but might be worth a deeper look. She posits that, at least in terms of the availability of weapons, the millennials have lived their entire lives submersed in modern media, with movies, TV and video games littered with images of weapons (including “assault rifles”) being everywhere. They may, she suggests, be less shocked by them and more immune to an impulsive negative reaction. I don’t tend to be somebody who wants to blame everything on video games, but as a cultural influence there may be something to it. Likewise, this generation grew up around Edward Snowden style revelations. Perhaps they are so accustomed to the idea of Big Brother watching their every move that the idea of a national gun registry simply doesn’t get them up on their hind legs the same way that it does their more experienced elders.
Food for thought, anyway.