The new gun-owner electoral surprise
The 2020 election is technically over, even though the results remain up in the air. A real resolution is probably a month away, at the time when the Electoral College casts its votes. However, it's not too early to learn some important lessons — not the least of these lessons is what it takes to transform a first-time gun-owner into a first-time gun voter. Many pundits — me included — projected that the huge flood tide of first-time gun-owners would lead to millions of men and women who would be voting in support of the Second Amendment — not just as one more factor, but placing gun rights among their prime factors when it comes to determining whom to support with their ballots.
We were wrong, and it's important to understand why, because there's always a "next" election, less than four years from now.
A couple of months ago, on the third of September, I wrote an article for American Thinker, noting how many millions of first-time gun owners had stepped forward and bought firearms, reacting in reasonable fear over the possibility of a Biden presidency. After all, Biden had gone public with his plans to put gun control policies in the hands of notorious gun-grabber Beto O'Rourke. In the face of this public position, those who might one day hope to become gun-owners reasonably decided not to wait, but to buy right away.
In that article, I cited sources that included Forbes, the Washington Free Beacon, and the Wall Street Journal, all of which noted the dramatic upsurge in first-time gun-purchasers. Each article noted that this economic support of gun rights should equate to men and women who — for the first time — would be taking the Second Amendment into consideration as they decided whom to vote for. I also cited Joe Biden's firearms position as published online on the Democratic Party platform. Forbes even called it "voting with their guns." However, all three sources agreed that there were four factors involved in this skyrocketing new-gun purchases.
First was COVID-19 and its out-of-control impact on our society. This was especially evident in the rampant unemployment which accompanied the lockdown, a level of unemployment with no option for replacement jobs. Faced with a dangerous unknown, people responded by ensuring their own ability to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
Even more potent than COVID-19 were the riots in the streets. These began toward the end of May in Minneapolis, before quickly spreading to Seattle and Portland, as well as to several cities in Wisconsin and a number of other locations. All of these riots, complete with shootings and arson, seemed to encourage and motivate first-time gun-buyers. Related to this murderous civic disorder was the far-left push to defund the police. The gutting of metropolitan police forces quickly motivated individual citizens to become responsible for their own self-protection. In a society with a sharp reduction in police services, a meme arose: "When seconds count, the police are just minutes away." That popular slogan drove millions of people to first-time gun ownership, and with good reason.
Finally, millions of people — afraid that Joe Biden might be elected president as a prelude to turning over federal gun control policy to Beto O'Rourke — felt that there was no better time to buy a handgun, shotgun, or rifle than before Jan. 20, 2021, inauguration day for either President Trump or Vice President Biden.
It was this last factor that Forbes, the Washington Free Beacon, and the Wall Street Journal agreed upon. However, the expected five million additional gun-owning supporters of President Trump, beyond his 2016 vote totals, did not come through as projected. Certainly, Trump received more votes — millions of additional votes, beyond any previous presidential candidate. However, Biden still managed to outscore the president to the tune of roughly five million added voters. Any surge in votes for Trump from among first-time gun-owners was lost in the tidal wave of votes made possible by mail-in voting.
Among those who have long owned guns and who have a strong and ongoing commitment to the Second Amendment, the linkage between gun ownership and voting seems obvious. This is one reason why the National Rifle Association has long held such powerful influence in Washington. It seemed only natural that new, first-time gun-owners would share these feelings, especially given the reasons cited above for voters to become first-time gun-owners. However, this was an assumption, with no previous research to support its logical-seeming conclusion.
As a result, the apparent failure of the first-time gun-owners to become a decisive factor in President Trump's run for re-election caught gun experts — including me — off-guard. The vote totals in 2020 suggest that it will take more than the first-time ownership of a revolver, pistol, shotgun, or rifle to turn a voter into a committed supporter of the Second Amendment. Knowing this now, the NRA and other gun rights organizations can begin preparing for the next election, knowing that it will take more than gun ownership to turn someone into a gun voter. It will take education into the importance of the Second Amendment and the implications of Democrat gun control initiatives — including forced buy-backs of semi-automatic rifles and pistols — to turn millions of first-time gun owners into pro-gun voters.
Ned Barnett is a life-long target shooter. He won the Presidential Sports Award for marksmanship in 1970 while a member of the Rifle Team at the University of Georgia. He is the owner of Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas. He handled media and strategy for three state-level presidential campaigns and has been an activist in working with constitutional conservative candidates for elective office. He has also been an on-camera historian in nine History Channel programs, focusing on weapons used in the First and Second World Wars.
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