Americans Changing Attitude Toward Guns


Many First Time Buyers are Women


By Michael Chester


While gun ownership continues to be a political hot button issue, one trend is clear. The number of Americans who own guns has continued to rise. 2011 saw a dramatic rise in gun sales and, so far, 2012 appears to be an even better year for the manufacturers.

In January 2012, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) numbers showed an increase of 17.3 percent in gun purchase related checks compared to the same time period the previous year. January marks 20 straight months of increased NICS report requests. While background checks don’t automatically turn into purchases, it is unlikely that many people would go through the trouble and expense of getting a background check and then not make a purchase.

The Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) held in Las Vegas in January, reached a new record with more than 61,000 in attendance, including over 36,000 buyers and 1,600 exhibitors.  Much inventory was ordered and sales are expected to remain strong.

With money currently tight, why are people increasingly choosing to purchase relatively expensive guns and ammunition?

Research now shows that, in general, people in the United States seem to have a more favorable  attitude towards gun ownership today than in the past. A recent Gallup poll shows that among those surveyed, the number in favor of banning handguns has dropped to a record low of 26% compared to 60% in 1959. When asked if so called “assault rifles” should be banned, 53% said no. Those in favor of enforcing the gun laws on the books are up to 60%, while those who want additional regulations are down to 35%.

As significant as these poll results are, they still don’t answer the question as to why gun sales are up. No one can give a definite answer to that question, but it appears to be a combination of reasons.

1. Shooting’s New Positive Media Image

Popular mainstream television programs about guns and shooting, such as Top Shot, Sons of Guns, and others are stimulating interest in sport shooting. People are seeing clean, wholesome people handling and shooting guns in a safe and sporting manner. This is doing a lot to dispel the negative image of gun owners being only criminals and psychopaths.

2. An Attitude of Self-Reliance

With continual budget cuts in law enforcement, many people now feel the need to protect themselves and their families.

3. Many states have revised their requirements to allow law abiding citizens to obtain a concealed pistol license.

49 states now allow for a person to carry a concealed pistol under varying restrictions and licensing requirements, with Illinois and The District of Columbia being the only jurisdictions without such provisions.      4 states, Vermont, Arizona, Wyoming, and Alaska do not require a concealed license and any legally owned gun can be carried open or concealed.  35 states have “shall issue” laws. This essentially means that if you pass the required background checks and meet certain requirements (such as proper training) the state cannot deny your request for a license.

Many states have revised their laws to shall issue within the past 20 years. This essentially changed the burden of proof from the applicant needing to show a just reason for getting a license, such as a business owner having to carry large sums of money to the bank after closing, to the state having to prove that there is just cause for denying your application, such as a criminal record or being mentally ill. The exact laws and requirements vary from state to state, but they are similar.

For example, in Michigan where I live, an applicant must pass a detailed background check. He cannot have any felony convictions, drunk driving convictions, 2 or more impaired driving convictions (one is allowed) mental illness, no domestic violence convictions or orders of protection, no gun law violations and my personal favorite, he cannot not have a conviction for driving a locomotive under the influence of alcohol. (that is actually on the books) There are a few other things that can be cause for denial.

In addition, he must pass an approved class in gun safety and laws specifically related to concealed carry. The class has to include shooting of a handgun at a range under the supervision of the licensed instructor. You have to be finger printed, palm printed, edge of hand printed, etc. and these are sent to the FBI for a federal background check.  Though it is a statewide license, the final approval is made by your local county’s gun board. If you are a borderline applicant, you may have to appear before the board in person for an interview. Remember that what I have described is Michigan’s policy. Each state has its own requirements which can vary widely.

35 states also have reciprocal agreements where a person with a license in one of these states can legally carry in another. For example a person who is licensed in Michigan can legally carry his gun into Ohio. He must, however, comply with the laws of Ohio and it is his responsibility to know how the laws differ in the two states. Since each state has its own specific laws and restrictions, this can get quite confusing.

Other states have “may issue” laws. These have very large variations from state to state and even different counties within one state. These states require that the applicant give a “valid” reason for wanting a carry license. What is considered valid is up to the discretion of the licensing board. Alabama, which is legally a may issue state, functions pretty much as though it were a shall issue one, that is an applicant that meets the legal requirement seldom is denied, whereas Hawaii, also a may issue state makes it nearly impossible to obtain a license and when granted, it may impose severe limits, such as a bank guard might get a license but it is only valid while he is on duty.

New York and California have huge variations from county to county, with counties in upstate New York granting licenses fairly freely and areas around New York City being extremely difficult to get a license. Likewise, central California makes it fairly easy, while LA and San Francisco grant few licenses.

Some states and cities have laws prohibiting certain designs or capacities that are legal elsewhere. It is your responsibility to know the laws in your area and comply with them as violations of gun laws, even if unintentional, have dire consequences. Many people believe that the laws are deliberately made confusing to trap people or simply make them believe that it is all too much trouble.

Some laws are just downright strange. Again, I will give an example from Michigan, because those are the laws I am most familiar with. Here you have to be 21 to get a Concealed Pistol License. This is the name given the carry license in Michigan. Other states have differing names. The minimum age to purchase or own a handgun is 18 here, but federal law only allows federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) to sell to those over 21, so while an 18 year old may buy a handgun, he must purchase it from a private seller. It gets stranger. To legally purchase handgun ammunition, you must be 21, so you can own the gun, but no ammunition. This law can be easily sidestepped by stating that you are purchasing the ammunition for a rifle. Since rifles are made that use handgun ammunition, this is allowed. Technically the young person has committed a crime by lying to the store clerk, but most look the other way.

Now he has a legal gun and illegally obtained ammunition so if he goes to a range and loads his gun, he could be charged with underage possession of handgun ammunition. As long as the young person behaves in a responsible manner, most police officers will overlook this technical violation, but it is always there hanging over his head. It may also create a distrust and disrespect for the law in the young person’s mind. What laws need to be obeyed and which ones can be ignored?

Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms made a tactically brilliant ruling if their goal was to divide and conquer the population. Many states now allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for particular medical conditions. These laws also vary from state to state, but generally the patient must register with the state and get a marijuana license. Federal law prohibits those with a history of drug abuse from possessing any firearm. The ATF ruled that in signing the application for a marijuana license, the patient has also signed a confession that he is a drug addict and is now prohibited from owning a firearm.

Where this is brilliant on their part is that this is a way of chipping away at gun ownership and legal drug use at the same time. Groups that support gun rights typically don’t support drugs and groups that support drug rights typically don’t support gun rights, so there is no organized group to fight for the rights of those patients who want to own a gun.

The sales of compact handguns for legal concealed carry are steady and strong. Greater access to concealed weapons permits has fueled a surge in women choosing to become gun owners. According to a Gallup poll, a record 43 percent of women in America say they have a firearm in their home. Women are the fastest growing segment of gun owners. The reasons are many. The old views that guns and shooting are a man’s domain have evaporated. Newer guns have been designed to fit a woman’s hand and with controlled recoils that require less physical strength than previously. More women are choosing to remain single and not have a “man around to protect them.”

Women are much more aware of the violence that is directed at them and want to take steps to protect themselves. There are a few other lessor reasons also including some that are pretty silly such as guns being manufactured in designer colors. Guns are now made in fluorescent green, blue, red, purple, orange and many other colors, ever rainbow. I think this is a mistake as they look like toys. It is not a real gun looking like a toy that creates most of the problem, though a child might be confused if he finds one, but the real danger is that a kid with a toy gun will be shot by someone who believes it to be real. I have a friend who says that he is going to buy a pink gun to carry because if he ever needs to pull it out, the fraction of a second when the bad guy laughs at him would give him a tactical advantage. I think he is joking, at least I hope so.

4. What Did Not Happen

When many states began revising their concealed carry laws to will issue, many people feared rivers of blood flowing in the streets as crazy people packing heat would get into gun fights often and life would resemble a TV western. There would be more armed robberies with more guns. These events did not happen. Crime rates actually decreased and there were fewer gun fatalities. If you stop and think for a minute, a person that had ill intent would not buy a legal gun, register it with law enforcement, get finger printed and put it into the police database that he may be carrying a gun. He would go down to the corner and buy a gun in a Crown Royal bag. Knowing that the person he is attempting to rob just might have a gun, may make him think twice before acting.

The same principle applies to open carry. In states that don’t have laws prohibiting it, a person who legally owns a gun may carry it openly on his side except in prohibited areas. In practice, however, the sight of a gun makes some people nervous. Again, I would say to them, would a criminal openly advertise that he has a gun? This would be like having a sign saying “arrest me” around his neck. The criminal would keep his gun hidden so he had the element of surprise.

Many people who were on the fence about the change in the laws, now can see the positive results and this creates a more favorable view of guns and their owners.

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5. Politics

Another reason for increased gun sales is political. Pro-gun groups have done a good job of creating the belief that there is a huge group of politicians whose sole goal in life is to take away their guns. Whether this is true or not does not matter. As long as a sizable group believes this and acts on the belief that they need to buy now before the ban, sales will boom.

Between the time of the 2008 presidential election and the inauguration of President Obama, and well beyond, gun and ammunition sales went off the charts. There were severe shortages of popular size ammunition such as 9mm and .380 and prices took a big jump. This was all based on the belief that he was planning to curtail gun rights. While I cannot look inside his head to know what he really feels, so far he has not done this, but the perception continues. Now they are saying that he is just waiting until his second term. Since this article is about gun ownership and our advertising is computer generated based on topic, I would be willing to bet that somewhere on this page is an ad that says something like “Obama and Hillary want to take away your guns,” and asking for money to fight them.

Even if these allegations prove to be true, this is beyond the power of the president, so it is mostly a hollow scare tactic. Congress and the people would need to support this and that won’t happen. The vast majority of people in this country either own guns themselves or have friends or relatives who do, so they are either pro-gun or neutral on the subject. As I mentioned earlier the number of people who now support a ban on handguns is down to 26% and the pro-gun lobby is very powerful so there would not be sufficient support for such actions.

This brings us to the National Rifle Association, the largest and most politically influential pro-gun group in the US. People have strong and diverse opinions about the NRA ranging from them being the saviors of all that is good and right about this country to them being the spawn of Satan. They are certainly an enigmatic group. On one hand, they provide more training in safe gun handling and hunter safety than any other group. They train and certify instructors in all phases of gun ownership, from simple maintenance to concealed carry training. Their “Personal Protection in the Home” class is the number one class used in states that require a formal class to get a concealed carry permit. They promote youth programs and work hard to train people in safe handling of guns.

They also are very politically powerful and collect huge sums of money to fight the enemy, whether he is real or imaginary. Basic marketing and lobbying procedures require an enemy to stir up the troops.

I will give an example that is completely unrelated to the subject of guns. In the computer operating system arena, Microsoft and Apple are symbiotic competitors. What do I mean by this? They do compete for most of the computer market, but they actually need each other to exist. Aside from competition generating innovation, Apple needs the giant dominant evil empire to rebel against and Microsoft needs a viable competitor to prevent getting an anti-trust suit from the government. This is why several years ago, when Apple was near bankruptcy, it was Microsoft that came to their rescue with an infusion of capital.

Getting back to the NRA; for them to collect huge sums of money and members, they need an enemy. (The liberal anti-gun lobby which does exist, but is much smaller than perceived) They need flawed legislation to defeat, even if they have to create it themselves. This is part of lobbying 101 and they are far from the only ones doing it. How it works is that when they need a boost, they write a poorly crafted piece of legislation that would somehow impinge on gun rights and have a lame duck legislator, one who is in an uncontested district or a dupe who does not know who wrote it to introduce this legislation. They then attack the flaws that were intentionally put into the bill and it gets defeated. This gets them credibility and donations from their members and donors.

Sometimes one of these bills is allowed to pass to really get people riled up. Such a bill was the now defunct “Assault Weapons Ban” from a few years ago. This was a law that sounded very restrictive on the surface, but in reality, it had loopholes large enough to drive a tank through. Between the grandfather clauses and it focusing on the cosmetic appearance of a gun rather than its function, it really did not ban anything. What it did do was create the impression that big government was trying to take away people’s rights and really boosted sales of the very guns it was allegedly banning. It had a sunset clause, so it conveniently went away after its desired effect.

I have spoken with a former Congressional lobbyist and he assured me that this is done all of the time by many politically active groups, not just the NRA. This is very similar to false flag operations that occur in international politics. Enemies are created where few or none exist.

I will close with a very good video for those who legally carry a gun. It deals with how to deal with the police if you are stopped while legally carrying your gun. Watch it closely. It might save your life.

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Michael Chester is retired from his career in industrial technology. After graduating from college, he taught this subject until deciding that he preferred doing the job himself more than teaching it. At various times during his career, he has designed, built, installed, and repaired industrial manufacturing machinery. His specialty was in electrical and electronics controls. After retiring, he concentrated more on his hobby of cooking and attended one of the top culinary schools in the US. Mike competed in bass fishing tournaments for several years, but had to leave the sport due to an injury. As a certified barbecue judge he gets to taste some of the best BBQ in the country and help select the winner. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it. He lives with his wife of over 30 years, has 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren.