Before they try to change every Americans’ constitutional rights forever, perhaps these eager young men and women might want to learn something from their elders.
On March 24, student activists will gather in Washington, DC and other cities across the country as part of March for Our Lives, organized in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with the mission to “end the epidemic of mass shootings.” Their enthusiasm is admirable. But their trivial knowledge of firearms and the Second Amendment is not. Before they try to change every Americans’ constitutional rights forever, perhaps these eager young men and women might want to learn something from their elders on these matters.
I represent an older generation of Americans who grew up in a time when many people still lived on farms. Unlike this generation, which seems determined to denigrate the roles of men and fathers, many of us had dads who taught their sons and daughters the proper use of shotguns and rifles, and how to shoot. Even my suburban high school in New York had a gun range and a junior Rod & Gun club. We were all expected to learn how to shoot a firearm. After the Second World War and Korea and amidst the threat of Soviet totalitarianism, we were taught to defend our families, ourselves, and our country. Liberty, self-armament, patriotism, and citizenship were inextricably bound.
The right to keep and bear arms has become even more crucial to those of us heading into our sunset years. The elderly are especially vulnerable to violent crime and, as a result, the number of senior citizens carrying firearms is on the rise. Nearly 23,000 people over 65 took basic firearm training courses from NRA-certified instructors in 2015, four times the number five years earlier. Since 2010, seniors’ demand for firearms training climbed 400 percent.
These are realities of life that the vast majority of the young people clamoring for gun control do not appear to grasp.
In fact, given their many media appearances, it’s clear that student activists are largely unfamiliar with the mechanics of firearms. Most believe the “AR” in “AR-15” stands for “assault rifle.” (It actually stands for ArmaLite, the manufacturer who designed the gun in 1956.) Moreover, few know the simple difference between a round and a clip. These aren’t trivial matters. They have already vastly impacted public policy.
American ‘Gun Culture’ Is In One Sense A Total Myth
Millennials also ought to grapple with the fact that American “gun culture” — in the sense that everyone is walking around with a firearm or has one at home — is a myth. Just about 3 percent of the population owns half of the civilian guns in this country. That’s the lowest rate of gun ownership since the late 1970s. Indeed, three decades ago, half of all American households had a gun, while just around one-third did in 2010. Yet gun violence has become more and more of a problem, despite fewer and fewer people possessing firearms.