America's war on guns
Eight days after the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary, where each child was shot with a Bushmaster .223, The Nation's Gun Show, the biggest east of the Mississippi, opened.
“A line already snaked around the building shortly after the three-day event began at 3 p.m., and the parking lot was jammed” at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., wrote Justin Jouvenal of The Washington Post. And this is the story across America since Sandy Hook.
The weapon most in demand at Chantilly? The AR-15 black rifle, a version of which was used to slaughter the innocents in Newtown.
Yet for weeks after Sandy Hook, journalists and politicians, who were making the case for a new assault-weapons ban, dominated the airwaves. Those calling for reinstatement of the ban, in effect from 1994 to 2004, had the national audience almost entirely to themselves.
But given record gun sales after December and in 2012 — there were 16.8 million calls to the FBI for background checks for gun purchases last year — the elites have lost the argument with the audience that counts.
The reflexive response of the gun controllers is to blame this on that malevolent force, the gun lobby, at whose apex is the NRA. But those crowds going to gun shows in droves are not there because the NRA issued some order.
Today, we Americans are a far more heavily armed people than half a century ago. Forty-seven percent of adult males own a firearm. There are 270 million rifles, shotguns and pistols in private hands.
Are they for hunting? Not according to the Financial Times.
“The number of hunters fell from 16.6 million in 1975 to 12.5 million in 2006, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.” That number will continue to shrink as America's suburbs further encroach on rural areas, limiting hunting grounds and reducing game.
The number of rifles like the AR-15 in private hands has probably tripled since the assault weapons ban expired. The NRA's David Keene estimates the number now at above 3 million.
Who owns these weapons?
Half are owned by veterans and cops. Writes Keene: “Nearly 90 percent of those who own an AR-15 use it for recreational target shooting; 51 percent of AR owners are members of shooting clubs and visit the range regularly; the typical AR owner is not a crazed teenage psychopath but a 35-plus-year-old, married and has some college education.”
These figures suggest that a successful effort to restrict the sale and transfer of “assault rifles” will, as did Prohibition, drive the market underground, create lawbreakers out of folks who are law-abiding and send the AR-15 price further skyward.
Many gun controllers not only do not understand what motivates those who disagree with them, they do not like them, reflexively calling them “gun nuts,” a reaction as foolish as it is arrogant and bigoted.
Given the loosening of gun laws at the state level in recent years, the gun controllers no longer have the numbers to impose their will on folks who have a love for, or feel a need for, guns.
Many Americans accept that in the last analysis, it is a man's duty to be the defender and protector of his wife and children.
Human nature will ultimately triumph over ideology.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”