That’s the very optimistic take from Stanford Ph.D. candidate Scott Borgeson, who writes in a new column at the Stanford Review that the millions of new gun owners across the country this year heralds the impending demise of the gun control movement.
Borgeson believes that the influx of new gun owners, most of whom have purchased a firearm for self-defense because of concerns over riots and unrest in recent months, has the potential to upend support for gun control laws at both the state and federal level.
In light of this, many previously-acceptable, “common-sense” gun-control policies are likely to lose a great deal of support. Waiting periods are one example: they may be a fine idea on paper, but that quickly changes when you realize your city can turn into a riot zone at the drop of a hat – or in this case, at the drop of a grand jury’s decision to not indict two officers. Gun licenses that can take up to 18 months, background checks that can be delayed arbitrarily, and mandatory safety courses that can be cancelled indefinitely will likely undergo a similar shift in public opinion.
So far we haven’t seen any moves to undo any of the restrictions that Borgeson mentions, at least not through legislation. Instead, we have seen a wave of litigation filed against localities that have imposed months-long waits to apply for concealed carry permits or gun licenses, including a federal lawsuit filed just a few days ago by the Gun Owners Action League in Massachusetts.
Borgeson believes that the biggest impact the millions of new gun owners will have will be on attempts to ban so-called assault weapons and “high capacity” magazines. After all, these new gun owners didn’t fork over hundreds of dollars for a short-term lease on their new AR-15. They bought their gun, and they aren’t likely to embrace a law that demands they either turn over their gun to the government for pennies on the dollar, pay hundreds of dollars to register their gun with the federal government, or risk a ten-year federal prison sentence.
All this is not to say that the gun control debate will simply vanish overnight. It’s been a major element in many politicians’ platforms platforms for decades, so it seems unlikely that their positions will change any time soon—even with the recent buying spree. But a fundamental, grassroots shift in the way we view guns is already underway. More and more Americans now realize the importance of owning one, and have personal experience with purchasing one in a time of extreme demand. The more that becomes true, the less support gun control will receive. “There are no atheists in foxholes,” goes the saying. Well, I contend that there are no gun-control activists in the middle of a riot zone. And tragically, more and more of America is finding itself in exactly that situation.
Support for new gun laws has trended down this year in several polls, but we’re still a long way from gun control becoming a non-issue. No matter who wins the presidential election, we know that we’re going to be facing well-funded anti-gun groups who’ll seek to impose new restrictions wherever they can. If Biden wins and Democrats take control of the Senate, our fight will primarily be at the federal level. If Trump wins, then gun control groups are going to continue to funnel resources to states where they think they can get some of their anti-gun agenda signed into law.
Rather than the beginning of the end of gun control, I think the influx of new gun owners heralds a new chapter in the fight for our right to keep and bear arms. Gun control isn’t going to disappear as an issue, but Second Amendment supporters may very well find themselves with some new allies on the Left who believe that traditional gun control policies like gun and magazine bans and restrictive gun licensing laws are part of a systemically racist criminal justice system in need of an overhaul.
I’m not as optimistic as Scott Borgeson that we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of the gun control movement. In fact, if Joe Biden wins, then gun owners, new and old alike, will soon be engaged in the biggest fight for our Second Amendment rights since the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968.