As we enter into the home stretch for 2020, with record voter turnout and record gun sales, there’s a lot to hope for in the near future. First, despite potentially losing the White House, a number of state-legislatures flipped from Democrat to Republican. This provides a more stable footing for us; for example, few states with a strong Republican makeup have passed “Red Flag” laws, and no state with a strong Democrat makeup has passed permitless concealed carry. Second, we’re seeing a rejection of the anti-gun agenda; for example, Montanans just narrowly approved a ballot measure that would adjust existing preemption language around the carrying of guns, removing the ability for local governments to create additional regulations. Given America’s renewed appetite for guns and lack thereof for regulation, we can hope that these are signs of positive things to come—and a greater importance being placed on “the gun vote” going forward.
But who specifically is casting these votes?
First, a map put together in 2017 by SurveyMonkey shows the 2016 Presidential vote if only gun owning households voted. This would result in a 49-state sweep, with (ironically) Vermont being the only state to remain blue:
This second map, also provided by SurveyMonkey, shows what the results would be if only Millennials—those between 24 and 39—voted in the 2016 Presidential Election. The difference is staggering, and as pro-firearms advocates, should be extremely concerning to us. With few exceptions, the United States would be solidly blue—including our own state, and the often-celebrated GOP “firewall” of Texas. While we readily agree there is the occasional defender of the right to bear arms among Democrats, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find them. Improving the condition of the right to keep and bear arms in a country that voted like the example below would become exponentially more difficult—if not impossibly so.
Boomers: A Vanguard Generation
Thankfully, that outcome isn’t a likely reality yet. Although Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers in population, they’re still individually a smaller voting bloc with less engagement overall. You would need to aggregate votes cast from generations X, Y, and Z to overpower the Baby Boomer vote. Boomers make up about 56% of the Republican party. Today, when it comes to voting for candidates that are more likely to advance the cause of the right to keep and bear arms, Republicans are the only major party interested, and Baby Boomers are casting the greatest number of those critical votes.
This is a problem, because simply put: Baby Boomers are getting old and can’t vote forever. According to the US Census Bureau, all Baby Boomers will be 65 by 2030; with the average lifespan in the United States around 78 years old, that leaves precious little runway for everyday pro-gun advocates to enact enough cultural change among X, Y and Z to accommodate for the natural progress of generations.
With Boomers rapidly approaching their sunset years, and Generation X being inconsequentially small (Sorry X’ers), the responsibility falls to the Millennials. While some suggest that they’re not any more anti-gun than their predecessors, it’s clear that they’re not thinking about guns in the polling booth. And the Democrats, who have about 54% of the Millennial vote to the Republican’s 38%, are not looking to add a pro-firearms agenda into their platform. Millennials also seem to be avoiding the “reddening” as you age, with the gap widening in favor of Democrats as time goes on. Without bringing this generation around, the example map above will become a reality.
Bleak as it may look, it’s not without hope; as Millennials mature, they are now at an age where discussions about protecting their homes and families becomes more relevant. We have witnessed as a nation just this year how the moment a community’s safety is credibly threatened, Americans still reach for a gun. Firearms provide an excellent “wedge” issue that can divorce person from party, as long as it’s driven with alacrity and purpose. Decoupling the Second Amendment from Republicans, and making it an American versus a partisan plank, is the key to success.
Engaging Generation Z
Others are putting faith in Generation Z being potentially less progressive than their Millennial predecessors. Whether this will translate into pro-gun votes is currently impossible to say, since progressivism is more than just being pro-or-anti-gun. We also can’t ignore the 2017-2018 “March for our Lives” movement, with chapters popping up within schools in conservative states like Idaho and Utah, is almost entirely made-up of school-aged Generation Z. Even if we dismiss them as a vocal minority, there is no doubt that there is a heavy anti-gun influence from Millennial parents and Generation Z peers. Expecting them to simply weather the bombardment of anti-gun rhetoric is unrealistic, and early data regarding potential voting habits (of which there is little) don’t paint a picture that different from Millennials.
That is not to say that Z doesn’t show some promise; youth shotgun sports, for example, are growing steadily across the country, including our own state of Utah. In response to March activists, other young pro-gun figures have appeared. Still mostly being minors, the window opportunity for our community to make lasting inroads is still wide open, and unlike the Millennial generation, are growing up in a climate far more favorable to firearms; crime has been at historic lows, and there have never been more concealed carry permits, privately owned AR-15’s, or mega-popular video games featuring realistic guns than today. Unlike the 90’s, there is no overwhelming push to censor guns from video games and music.
The Fight to Survive
It’s reasonable to suggest that without a major change, all the ground gained in the last decade-and-a-half will be erased within a generation. It is now more crucial than any time before to do more than idly wish for the situation to improve; wallets and calendars need to be opened to build bridges, establish relationships, and create networks to defend the very precious and always attacked right to bear arms. If you are not donating time or money to broaden the number of shooters, the time to start is right now; because if we lose here in the United States, there will be nowhere left to go.