In the latest sign that we’re living in extraordinarily strange times, the New York Times sent a couple of reporters to a gun show in Virginia, and they returned with an honest and fair portrayal of America’s gun owners without the slightest hint of snark or disapproval in their story.
I’m honestly shocked, but I had a feeling that the usual “oh no, look at the bumpkins buying guns” narrative wasn’t going to be a focus of the Times story as soon as I saw the headline “Where ‘Black Lives Matter T-shirts meet MAGA hats: the gun show.”
With more women, racial minorities, and even Democrats purchasing a firearm for the very first time this year, all of a sudden the Second Amendment doesn’t appear to be quite as awful as it did when most folks talking about the importance of the right to keep and bear arms were conservatives.
“This is a giant room of ‘you never know,’” said Bert Davis, looking around earlier this month at people streaming inside a convention hall in Virginia to peruse weaponry at the Nation’s Gun Show, one of the biggest events of its kind.
A human resources worker for the city of Richmond, Va., Mr. Davis had come to the show with his sister Toni Jackson, who had been having difficulty finding 9-millimeter ammunition at local gun shops; they were all sold out.
“Everybody is arming themselves against their neighbor,” Ms. Jackson said, looking at the diverse lot of fellow shoppers, some pushing strollers and wheelchairs, one wearing a “Black Lives Matter” mask, one donning a “Keep America Great” mask and people standing in a line for background checks that snaked along the room. “This feeds the separatism of the country.”
“What’s going on in the country right now, I’m afraid to be out by myself as a Black woman,” Ms. Jackson said, describing unrest in her city of Richmond and beyond. “There are a lot of people not necessarily excited that Confederate monuments have been taken down.”
With all due respect to Ms. Jackson, I think she couldn’t be more wrong about the attendees of the gun show. Rather than feeding the separatism of the country, the Second Amendment is where many of us can find common ground, and as the Times described, it was a diverse crowd in attendance at the Nation’s Gun Show in northern Virginia. The attendees likely disagree on all kinds of issues, but on their right to own a gun for self-defense, they’re in agreement.
Don Woodson was overseeing the Trojan Arms and Tactical table of dozens of black, pink and Tiffany turquoise semiautomatic handguns. He estimated 70 percent of his sales at the show were to new gun owners, many of whom told him that they are afraid of rioters.
“People who never ever would have had guns before,” he said. “Now, they’re looking for security.”
That’s the commonality to be found between those wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts and those wearing MAGA masks; we want to be safe, and 2020 has shown us that the police won’t always be there to protect you, politicians can’t protect you, and gun control won’t protect you. You need to be able to protect yourself, and millions of Americans embraced their right to keep and bear arms as they’ve come to that conclusion, even if they never dreamed they’d become a gun owner in the past.
I don’t know how much Toni Jackson and I would agree on politically, but I already feel a connection with her based on our shared frustration at the lack of 9mm ammunition to be found in the Richmond, Virginia area. It may not seem like much, but finding those connections, no matter how small, are incredibly important for those of us who want to ensure that our Second Amendment rights remain as secure and strong as possible.
A decade ago, fully 25% of the Democrats in Congress were “A”-rated by the NRA. Now, Minnesota’s Collin Petersen is the only Democratic House member with the NRA’s highest rating. If we have more Democrats buying guns at the moment, then the Second Amendment movement needs to think about how we can translate that into more pro-Second Amendment Democrats.
On the face of it, the idea is absurd. Democrats have become far more aligned with gun control groups like Brady and March for Our Lives than they were a decade ago, and Michael Bloomberg has ingratiated himself with Democrats up and down the ticket by spending lavishly in support of their campaigns, as long as they support his pet causes like gun control.
Joe Biden’s running as the most anti-gun presidential candidate in American history, and there’ll be plenty of Democrats who bought a Glock as their first gun earlier this year who’ll be voting for the guy who wants to make it a crime for them to keep the ammunition magazine that came with their pistol. The Second Amendment isn’t their first issue, and it may not even crack the Top 5.
Still, as we’ve discussed here before, there’s a growing number of younger Democrats, typically further to the Left than Bloomberg on most issues, who aren’t on board with many old school gun control policies that are enforced by armed agents of the state and punished by incarceration. Could they, along with the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of new Left-leaning gun owners start to push the Democrats away from their embrace of gun bans, magazine bans, universal background checks, “may issue” concealed carry licenses, and other policies that put thousands of people behind bars every year for non-violent, possessory firearms offenses that aren’t even crimes in many states?
I’m not confident, but I’m hopeful that we could see that new pro-2A coalition start to come together over the next year. I’m a conservative, but I also know that our Second Amendment rights will be more secure when both major parties are fighting for the vote of gun owners, and seeing the newfound respect shown to gun shows and those who attend them by the New York Times gives me a little optimism these new gun owners are already starting to have an impact on how some on the Left think about and cover these issues.