(Editor’s note: This article was a submission from freelance writer Max Slowik)
When it comes to gun politics, one demographic bucks the trend. Millennials, now a sizable part of the vote, are fairly divided when it comes to firearms policy and show about as much support for gun rights as older demographics.
In other words, today’s policy-makers can’t count on the youth vote on the matter of gun control as much as they have in previous years. According to the Pew Research Center, people aged 18-29 are split down the middle, where just 15 years ago the same demographic was in favor of gun control by more than three-quarters of the age group.
Millennial’s support for gun rights follows the trend that Americans of all age groups and demographics are more pro-gun than they were even ten years ago, but the shift is more dramatic than with other demographics. On top of that, it’s not a matter of left versus right, as Millennials, like previous generations of young voters, are largely in favor of Democratic party policy.
“Millennials remain the most Democratic age cohort: 51 percent of Millennials identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 35 percent who identify as Republican or lean Republican,” according to Pew Center polls.
“Poll data about views of gun control and specific gun-control measures are mixed, and responses vary depending how questions are asked,” writes Catherine Rampell for the Washington Post. “But statements about protecting gun rights generally elicit at least as much support from younger Americans as from older ones.”
Millennials’ support for gun rights extends to individual policy proposals, too, including greater opposition to gun bans, magazine capacity limits and mandatory waiting periods.
Rampell questions whether or not exposure to violent media, including video games, music and movies may have numbed young potential voters to gun violence and so they aren’t particularly swayed by the case for increased gun control.
But another explanation may be more straightforward: with violent crime on the constant decline since the ’90s, Millennials have been exposed to the least amount of real-world violence of all the generations, and why their demographic doesn’t tie gun ownership to gun violence. On top of that, Millennials are–statistically–far less prone to be violent.
“Today, murder rates in these areas are barely a third of what they were in the early 1990s—the starkest reflections of a nationwide decline in crime,” writes Neil Howe for Forbes. “While the public remains largely unaware of this drop, experts have been observing and discussing it for years. Though many theories have been considered, one explanation that is often missing from the debate is generational change: crime rates started to fall precisely when Millennials entered the prime age bracket for criminal activity.”
And as gun sales rise and the number of gun owners swell while violence continues to drop, Millennials have little reason to link guns with bloodshed.
If they’re so non-violent, why do Millennials want guns? The same reasons as anyone else, really.
Pop culture shouldn’t be entirely ruled out when it comes to making guns popular. It’s safe to say that the majority of Millennials have video game experience including shooters, the blockbuster movies of the video game industry.
It’s hard to dismiss the link between pop culture and gun culture, with companies like Battlefield Vegas offering gun rental packages like “the Counter-Strike Experience,” “the Platoon Experience” and “the G.I. Jane Experience.”
Today guns are an important part of product placement in all forms of entertainment media and have been a part for most Millennial’s lives. Good guy guns and bad guy guns alike, people want to own the firearms they fall in love with on-screen.
“After [“Die Hard”], everyone wanted a Glock handgun,” said gun store owner Wesley Morris to Fox News. “That movie literally made Glock in America; they weren’t popular before that. Hollywood can influence sales, and in this case, the ‘Glock 7’ used in the film was fictional. It doesn’t even exist.”
Like with guns, TV, movies and video games have often been blamed for causing violence–an argument that can’t be sold to a block of voters that grew up steeped in game culture, with decades of movies and TV shows available to them on demand.
Coincidentally, as the first Millennials began to hit the age of majority, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban sunset in 2004, and all the cool guns from popular games, TV and movies suddenly became more widely available, and more affordable.
In the decade since, gun culture boomed; for Millennials, the stage was set. From gun collecting, recreational shooting, and personal protection, Millennials’ gun wants and needs are no harder to understand than it is for older shooters’.
Now Millennials are the new crop of young adults, with the same concerns and responsibilities present to generations before them. Self-defense and concealed-carry are at the forefront, especially with Millennials starting families, or, at least, thinking about it.
Millennials’ desire to own guns is as civic as it is cultural. Theirs is the most peaceful generation in living memory, and one thing’s clear: they intend to keep it that way, by any means necessary.