The gun community has forever changed. Once in a supposed slow decline, the popularity of shooting and gun ownership has come roaring back during the past couple of decades. Sales of firearms are setting all kinds of records, and gun ranges are frequently packed with people.
Michael Bane calls the latest generation of gun owners “Gun Culture 2.0,” which I find to be an exceptionally apt description. Much like the move from the “old” internet, to the current generation of interactive and social web sites was called “Web 2.0,” the Gun Culture 2.0 is a similarly remarkable change in our own community.
But the new generation of gun owners no longer fit the old-school sportsmen look of yesteryear. The new generation of gun owners are fiercely independent, yet socially active – especially in the online space. The new generation comes from urban centers as well as middle America. New gun owners are of all genders, colors, creeds and social strata. They are not Elmer Fudd.
Unlike the reserved approach to politics that the traditional firearms lobby has taken, the new generation is outspoken, unashamed and willing to fight for what they believe. They are educated on the origins of the Second Amendment and the fundamental right to be free. They do not advocate for the Second Amendment as a right to hunt, rather they perceive it as a guaranteed ability to resist an oppressive government.
But, why the shift? There are a variety of reasons, but I contend the internet is the primary reason for the revolution in the gun culture.
No single material thing is likely to have had a greater impact on humanity than the internet. The internet, and more specifically, the world wide web, has allowed people to communicate around the country and all over the world with virtually no interference from the government. Being able to come together and share ideas about politics, self defense and recreational shooting has helped cause a surge in new gun ownership – especially by people who have never been exposed to the “traditional” methods of introduction into our community.
Instead of the image of the white male father dressed in flannel taking his son off to the woods for the traditional deer hunt, the new image of gun ownership is much broader and more diverse. The members of the 2.0 gun culture are more likely to own an AR15 with a suppressor than a Winchester Model 70. And, you can rest assured that a new gen gun owner is likely to be carrying a Glock or KelTec when you run into them at the local coffee shop.
In today’s gun culture, there are many more women, a broader mix of races and a wider range of backgrounds. Instead of being a clean cut poster child of the 1950’s many gun owners are bikers or body art enthusiasts covered with tattoos. Others are fashion conscious while others still are computer nerds. Members of the new gun generation range in age from teens to retirees.
The point is, our culture has changed. And, it has changed for the better. We attract all kinds of people into the gun world because all of the lies about us are easily disproven now that the mass media no longer has control over what people know. The internet has allowed the truth about firearms to get out.
How the industry will respond to the culture shift remains to be seen. Some companies, like Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), have fully embraced the new paradigm. As a result, they have gained the confidence of many members of the gun culture and have played a role in shaping the future.
AAC, for example, is a manufacturer of silencers. Some 20 years ago, silencers were considered the tools of assassins and criminals. Through the educational work of AAC and others like them, perspective on sound suppressors has radically changed, and they are far more common on the range today than they ever have been in the past. Without embracing Gun Culture 2.0, the upswing in acceptance of silencers would never have taken place.
Others, however, have not made any moves to change with the times. I fear that some of those companies will not survive. I overheard two executives from a major firearms company discussing the internet culture in the airport after the SHOT Show this year. It was obvious they had no idea how to approach the new crop of gun owners so they were trying to convince themselves that they didn’t matter. I wonder if those two used to sell typewriters or pagers?
The gun culture has changed. If you are from the old guard, reach out to the new shooters every chance you get. They are a powerful force that can help safeguard all of our freedoms going forward.