The Huffington Post’s “guy guy” Mike Weisser argued in a recent Op-Ed that the NRA is losing the “culture war” with pro-gun control organizations like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
“I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns,” wrote Weisser.
“The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won’t really matter if the country’s dominant culture becomes anti-gun,” he continues. “And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the ‘culture wars,’ the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun.”
Weisser draws this conclusion for three reasons (a) less than half of America owns guns, (b) the industry has failed to penetrate new markets such as women and minorities and (c) to quote him directly, “the social and political views of millennials are completely at odds with the socio-demographic profile of the gun-owning population.”
Okay, there’s a lot I want to say because Weisser is sort of on to something but is also way off base.
Let’s start with this question, is the NRA failing to capture a younger audience? I don’t know, I think the jury is still out on this. One thing for sure though is that the NRA is keenly aware of its millennial deficiency and lack of diversity. How do I know this? Well, if it didn’t feel the need to reach out to younger and more diverse demos there would be no NRA Freestyle, NRA News Commentators, e.g. Colin Noir, Dom Raso, nor would there programs like “I Am Forever” or “Love At First Shot.”
The real question is whether these new personalities and programs are gaining traction with millennials, minorities and women? Tough to say.
To focus on the younger demo, “I Am Forever,” the show that turned high school senior Reagan Tyler into a “shooter athlete” did not post impressive numbers on Youtube. The first episode garnered around 8,400 views. Subsequent episodes garnered considerably fewer, some under 1,000 views. Sure, views are only one way to analyze the success or failure of a show (there are others, comments, engagement in terms of likes and shares on social media), but when one is dumping some major dollars into production costs, talent, filming, etc., which it appears the NRA did in this case, there is no way around acknowledging the obvious: the show was not a hit.
Other shows like “Noir” and “Media Lab” have done better in terms of views, but it be tough to argue that either was a runaway success in its first year. The NRA is bringing back “Noir” for a second season, but I haven’t heard whether “Media Lab” will return.
So, to go back to Weisser, he may be correct to assert that the NRA is struggling to win the culture war. However, just because the NRA is having trouble in this department, does that mean the entire gun industry is also struggling to win hearts and minds? No, I don’t think so.
To stick with the Youtube realm, and to focus on millennial target audience, all one needs to do is to watch Demolition Ranch or IraqVeteran8888 or FPSRussia to see that the younger generation has indeed taken up an interest in firearms (Based upon their respective content, I’m making an assumption that a large percentage of their audience is under 35). IraqVet and Demolition Ranch consistently get traction on their channels, some of their videos eclipse 100,000 views, and FPSRussia has over 5,000,000 subscribers with a total of 662,388,089 views. By comparison, CNN — the news network — has 820,233 subscribers with a total of 754,874,496 views.
If the significance of those numbers are lost on you, don’t worry about it. Just know that there is evidence to suggest that millennial gun owners are out there, they’re just not relying on traditional outlets like the NRA to consume gun-related content.
Besides Youtube, there are other barometers to check the pulse of millennials, minorities and women. The NSSF, the firearms industry trade organization, has done numerous surveys to measure any changes in demographics. A 2013 Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation in the U.S. 2008-2012 revealed the following with respect to new shooters:
- Younger: 66 percent of new shooters fall into the 18-to-34-year-old category compared to 31 percent in the same age category for established shooters.
- Female: 37 percent of new target shooters are female compared to 22 percent of established target shooters.
- Urban: 47 percent of new target shooters live in urban/suburban settings versus 34 percent of established target shooters.
- The report shows that one-fifth of target shooters in America first started participating in the shooting sports between 2008 and 2012. That means 20 percent of all target shooters began participating in the past five years.
Long story short, the gun industry is not losing the culture war to gun grabbers, despite what Weisser alleges. Is the NRA having trouble gaining traction in new markets? Maybe, but again, it’s taking steps to address that problem right now (It appears it’s launching a new NRA News). Over time, I suspect the NRA will find its footing and serve the younger generation as well as it did the older generations. In the meantime, millennials have a bunch of different gun-friendly personalities they can engage with.
On another note, in citing a Pew poll, Weisser writes the following, “a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012. As for Boomers, who buy and own most of the guns, they don’t support gays, they are fiercely patriotic, a majority are religious and they split their vote evenly in 2012. What these numbers tell me is that over the next twenty years, the gun industry better come up with a wholly different argument for owning guns.”
Weisser totally misses the mark here. The primary reason for keeping and bearing arms hasn’t changed since the founding of this country. Americans own firearms for self-defense — not only from street thugs, drug dealers and sociopaths, but also from government tyranny. It doesn’t matter whether one is pro-gay marriage or anti-gay marriage or religious or non-religious, one either has an appreciation and a respect for the natural right to self-defense or one does not. As a millennial (I was born in 1982, that makes me a millennial or close to one at least) that is both pro-gay marriage and non-religious, I can tell you that I do believe in the right of self-defense. I have a strong feeling I’m not the only one.