Gun Owners Are Still Being Stigmatized. It's Just Not Working.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

A few years back, I wrote about the stigmatization of gun owners. I talked about a troubling trend I was seeing, one that I argued was intended to decimate firearm ownership in this country by simply making it unpalatable for anyone to own a gun.


Since I wrote that back in 2018, little has changed with regard to the attacks. They continue apace and aren’t likely to stop anytime soon.

But a lot of people are wise to the game now. They’re seeing it far more comprehensively than we were back in 2018.

And they’re rejecting it.

For decades, a core component of the firearm prohibitionists’ strategy has been their attempt to stigmatize guns and gun ownership to push both out of mainstream American culture.

Sometimes this effort has been made explicit. In 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention Director Mark Rosenberg told The Washington Post, “We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes… dirty, deadly—and banned.” In 2013, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts penned an opinion piece likening her war on gun rights to the campaign against drunk driving—arguing that “same type of cultural shift must happen with guns.”

Often the tactics are recognizable, but a little less on the nose. Gun-control advocates and their media allies characterize any person or group that stands in the way of their agenda as “radical” or “extremist.” Gun-control groups and anti-gun researchers push dubious narratives about declining gun ownership.

It’s not for a lack of trying, but the survey data is clear that the gun-control crowd’s campaign to vilify guns and otherize gun owners isn’t working.

From Nov. 10-13, polling firms commissioned by NBC News asked a sample of registered voters “Do you, or does anyone in your household, own a gun of any kind?” The majority of respondents, 52%, affirmed that they or someone in their household owns a firearm.

The finding is more significant considering the number of times NBC News has polled Americans on this topic. NBC News has periodically asked this question at least 17 times since 1999. November’s 52% figure is the highest household gun ownership rate in the history of the NBC News poll.

Moreover, the overall trend in recent years shows American gun ownership is resilient and growing. In 1999, 44% of respondents reported living in a gun-owning household. In the seven times NBC News has asked the question since 2016, not once did the survey register a household gun ownership number below 44%. Micah Roberts of Public Opinion Strategies, who helped conduct the poll, told NBC News, “In the last ten years, we’ve grown [10 points] in gun ownership. That’s a very stunning number.”


It is a stunning number, but it’s not a surprising one.

Not really.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of horrific things happening and we’ve seen repeated examples of how gun control isn’t really going to stop them.

For all the mass shootings being touted by the media, a lot of people are seeing them in places like California, New York, and Illinois. For all the violent crime being blamed on guns, people are looking a little deeper and seeing that the criminals got those gun through illicit means.

And then 2020 happened, creating a perfect storm for gun ownership.

A lot of people may not recognize what a pandemic might have to do with gun owners, but we have to remember what it was like back then. Empty shelves in the grocery stores, no one able to go to work, 15 days to flatten the curve turning into months at home, people realized no one knew what the hell they were doing and got scared.

Then we ended up with the summer of riots that year following the death of George Floyd. People saw entire city blocks up in flames and a lot of violent rhetoric that made them nervouse.

They became gun owners.

That was followed with a massive spike in homicides and violent crime as a whole, which sent more people to the gun store. Gun ownership exploded not because of anything except for one very simple fact: Even the most ardent anti-gunner figures they should be the exception.

More and more people bought guns and became gun owners, including some who long advocated for gun control. Many of them found out how little they understood existing laws. For example, a lot of them tried to buy guns online, only to find out they’d been lied to. They couldn’t buy a gun there and have it sent to their homes.


So the stigmatization of gun owners continues, but it’s not working worth a flip.

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