This "new approach to prevent gun violence" is really about preventing gun ownership

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Despite the anti-gun legislative backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen that we’ve seen in blue states from California to New York, the gun control lobby knows that it’s been dealt a serious blow. I think the odds are good that five years from now most of the fundamental goals of the anti-gun movement will have all been struck down in court, with bans on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines being the most likely to fall next.

For decades, the gun control movement has been predicated on the idea of banning our way to safety, but handgun bans are already off the table, and the Court has now made it clear that the Second Amendment protects not just a right to have a gun in the home for self-defense, but to carry one in public. While gun control groups can and will continue to nibble around the edges of the right to keep and bear arms, most of what they want to do in the name of “gun safety” simply won’t pass constitutional muster under the test outlined by the Supreme Court.

If they can’t change the law, then they’ll have to change the culture. So argues Nina Vinik, the founder and executive director of Project Unloaded, which wants to “flip the script on gun culture” and make it socially and culturally unacceptable to exercise your right to armed self-defense. As she details in a column at Newsweek, anti-gun activists have been losing in the court of public opinion as well as in courts of law.

In 2000, gun ownership had been steadily declining for a quarter century, and most Americans knew that having a gun at home would make them less safe. Today, gun ownership is on the rise and the vast majority of Americans—including three-quarters of young people—believe that guns make us safer.

At the same time, the demographics of gun ownership are changing, with more young people, women and people of color buying guns than in the past. And they’re buying guns at an alarming rate.

Too many Americans of all backgrounds are exercising their constitutional rights for Vinik’s liking (I can’t help but wonder if she thinks that social media has caused more of us to exercise our First Amendment rights at an “alarming rate”), and something must be done about it. It’s important to note here that gun ownership itself is Vinik’s issue. She doesn’t care how much training they’ve had, how regularly these new gun owners are going to the range, or even if they use their firearm in self-defense. She simply doesn’t want anyone to own a gun.

But adults are set in their ways, she says (though that doesn’t explain why more of them are becoming gun owners, which seems to imply a change of heart to one degree or another on their part). It’s largely a waste of time trying to convince them that guns are bad. Instead, Vinik wants to indoctrinate kids into believing that there’s no such thing as responsible gun ownership. It’s not like this is a big secret. Here’s what the Project Unloaded website says on its landing page.

Research shows that teens and young adults are forming opinions and making decisions about guns. Through creative and cultural campaigns, Project Unloaded establishes safe spaces for open conversations about guns and provides accurate information about gun safety to inspire the next generation to choose on their own terms not to own a gun.

Vinik is no stranger to the gun control movement, though Project Unloaded has only been around for a year or so. Before that, she worked at the Joyce Foundation for over a decade serving as the organization’s program director for Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, and was the legal director for Legal Community Against Violent for about six years before that.

In other words, she’s been around long enough to know that the idea of making gun ownership taboo isn’t exactly a new idea, nor is it unproven or untested. Look at what happened in both Washington, D.C. and Chicago in the years after handguns were banned. Legal gun ownership rates declined precipitously. A culture of responsible gun ownership was eradicated. Violent crime (including homicides), on the other hand, skyrocketed.

Making gun ownership taboo is the exact opposite approach that we should be taking. Look at what’s going on in Minnesota right now, where thousands of high school students recently competed in the first round of the state’s trap shooting championship. These are kids who are learning how to be safe and responsible with firearms, learning their power and the consequences of misusing them, and they’re having a great time doing so. Isn’t that a better approach than just trying to convince kids that they shouldn’t exercise their Second Amendment rights when they grow up?

Education is key to responsible gun ownership, but Vinik would keep people as ignorant as possible when it comes to firearms. That’s a recipe for disaster, and the entire premise behind Project Unloaded is one big misfire of a bad idea.