The Changing Face of Gun Culture

By CTD Suzanne published on in News

The face of America’s gun culture is changing. Since the first election of President Obama, more and more Americans are purchasing guns. An October 2011 Gallup poll reports nearly half of Americans have at least one gun in the home. The same report states that support for a handgun ban is at an all-time low. Women’s gun ownership is the highest it has ever been. In just 10 years, female firearm ownership has doubled. The number of women reporting as having hunted shows a 5.4 percent increase since 2008. Even 40 percent of Democrats polled by Gallup say they own a firearm. Gun owners no longer look like white, 50-plus-year-old men. Women, minorities and younger people are taking up shooting and gun ownership  in record numbers.

Unfortunately, there are people out there with an ill pre-conceived notion of what a gun owner looks like. In an editorial on Cleveland.com, Christopher Evans wrote about attending a gun show. Here are some of the choice phrases he used describing who he saw:

  • “Well-fed white guys with semiautomatic [sic] assault rifles slung over both shoulders”
  • “… A staging site for a ragtag militia.”
  • “White males, beards, skinheads, a touch of camo and leather.”
  • “One dealer, a weathered old guy who looks like he took one too many shots to the head…”
Not all gun owners are well-fed white guys.

Not all gun owners are well-fed white guys.

If you had never attended a gun show before, Evans paints a frightening picture. Those of us who attend gun shows know this is not what it looks like. In my experience, be it at a gun show, shooting clinic or class, or a full auto shoot, like any mass gathering people from all walks of life are there. Sure I’ve seen militia types, but I’ve also seen groups of women, families, minorities, tourists from Australia, young and old people alike.

Richard L. Johnson describes this changing face as, “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 1950s 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.”

I was raised down South in the country. Everyone was a gun owner—whether you hunted, kept a rifle for predators, shot targets with a pistol or just kept granddaddy’s shotgun. I was never aware that gun ownership held a stereotype until I was older. It saddens me to read Evan’s editorial. I thought we were past the days of judging a book by its cover. After all, I do come from the generation in which we made expressing ourselves through tattoos and facial piercings the norm.

I’ve been pigeonholed before. I dated a biker years ago. My parents were appalled that I was running around to biker bars. I had to remind them that Harley Davidson motorcycles weren’t cheap and I wasn’t running around with a bunch of one-percenters—like criminals. We rode with doctors, lawyers, school teachers, college students and veterans. Harley Davidson owners are much like gun owners; they could be anybody, and are. When I first started working at Cheaper Than Dirt, I found myself having to defend the gun culture the same way I defended biker culture, but not anymore. In fact, plenty of friends—uninterested in guns before—are now asking me to take them shooting.

I’m not exactly sure where the stereotype of what a firearm owner looks like came from, but psychologists explain that stereotypes are a way for people to develop “in-groups” and “out-groups” in order to make sense of social order. We create “in-groups” by relating to people we think are like us and we create “out-groups” for people we think are different than us. Relating to these in-groups increases our self-esteem. We form opinions—usually negative—about people in the out-groups, regardless of those opinions being correct or incorrect. You may have heard that stereotypes come from a truth somewhere, but recently psychologists have found that we stereotype subconsciously or through quick encounters with another person. Cultural norms and the mass media perpetuate these stereotypes and essentially teach us to believe certain groups of people behave a certain way. Which is entirely untrue.

No beards, skinheads, camo or leather in sight.

No beards, skinheads, camo or leather in sight.

Firearms have a deep-rooted tradition in American culture and history—it’s not just the South either. From the first settlers in the East, to the pioneers to the West, firearms were a way we defended ourselves, our country and put food on the table. Learning to hunt was a rite-of-passage for young men, as it still continues today. However, more and more young women are being introduced to hunting as a rite-of-passage.  In fact, in 2011, only one of the top five states reporting the highest numbers of NICS checks was a southern state.

If  Gallup’s report is true, and 40 percent of Democrats report owning a firearm, doesn’t stereotyping work both ways? Some gun nuts could probably learn a lesson from Evans. Gun ownership is about liberty. Studies have found that to eliminate discrimination and the prejudice that stems from stereotypical thinking, groups working together toward a common goal tend to look more harmoniously toward groups that are different than themselves. In our case every gun owner, regardless of color, religion, age, or political affiliation should work towards preserving our 2nd Amendment rights. Judging a book by its cover hurts us all.

There is no better time than now to teach someone to shoot. The more we show our faces, the more the Evans’ of the world will realize that gun owners look just like him—except with an open mind and a kinder heart.

Have you been judged because you were a gun owner? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Comments (46)

  • C. Willis

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    Not all gun owners are well-fed white guys. This is so true!!

    I don’t think there ever was a ‘typical’ gun owner not to mention a big shift that everyone is talking about. I’m NOT a Caucasian male-conservative by any means but I own several fireamrs & love shooting them. I think the media just focuses on what appears to be the ‘majority’ of gun ownership in America. And the corporations definitely focus on who buys the most firearms. I don’t think President Obama will ‘take’ away everyones firearms nor is he going to ‘rewirite’ the Constitution like some folks think. Will laws become more stringent, probably. They’re pretty tough now but if the laws were actually enforced more I think we’d be better off.

    Reply

  • Rumbum

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    First I would like to say I don’t believe in any political party let alone any politician. There’s only so many times you can be shown the same pile of crap in a different wrapper until you see that it’s all the same thing; so on with my gun discrimination story. I live in Southern California and constantly have to hear about how having a gun is “evil” and “barbaric”; I even had someone remind me it wasn’t the “wild west”. In this instance my neighbor and I was talking and guns were brought up; once he found out that I owned firearms and keep them in the house with my family he said and I quote “How dare you put your children at risk for your hobby”. Later that month I had to chase off, with rubber buck shot, a stray pitbull that was in his back yard were his kids play. (I love all dogs so I didn’t want to kill it) I reminded him that in our area that dog could have easily been a mountain lion and that he would have had a harder time chasing it off with a rake. Fire arms are tools with a specific job, and any tool can kill you if misused. Tools are not to blame for there misuse, that responsibility belongs to the owner and operator of that tool. A firearm doesn’t shoot without someone there to squeeze the trigger.

    Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    Better than “good” article, maybe darn good; for a woman.
    Just kidding.
    Family including grand children all know how to handle weaponry,great grand a little slow, then oldest just 2 1/2 and I know they will “possibly be taught, but not concerened if not.Been anti government types seen all my life but in past they were all americans not liberals or conservatives demos or repubs; and yes they were males, females and undecided as well.
    Been saying only thing that could save gun ownership in US was the entry of females, for over 20 years and finally old friends agreeing.
    Have known lots of ex military and hunting females all my life, got both in immediate familybut we are spots persons not political knobjobs.
    Welcome to all who enjoy weapinry or just need a tool for whatever need.
    Tired though of lies told to protect. Constitutional Rights by they who actually mean gun rights or privelege to own them.
    2nd does not defend your right to own a gun it defened the constitution.
    So why hidebehind the 2nd by men and now women because there is nothing left to argue over except owning steel and some with wood attached.
    Firearms do build character and characters but tired of all macho bs and glad some ladys as well as women now finding “enjoyment and some character fullfillment.
    At least all the female weapon holders I’ve ever met have had common sense and most more honest than the men.

    Reply

  • DB Cooper

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    Billy, You know us white guys we just like to hold onto our guns, bibles and religion. And I’m pretty sure the gov’t doesnt allow idiots to own automatic weapons. AND there are at least 15,000 laws on the books controlling guns so isnt it funny that criminals are even getting guns and politicians are so intent on making it harder for law abiding citizen to own weapons.

    Reply

  • Stackshot Billy

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    @DSLAM:::Amen! I’m neither lib nor conservative, but I seriously get tired of every gun-related article starting with “ever since Obama was elected…” Wake up, fools! Don’t you think it’s more than just a little coincidental or ironic that that when a Dem gets into office there’s a whole bunch of hysteria and hate talk because of a fear of guns being taken away? Is it because ALL Dems want to take you guns? No. It’s because the NRA is far right and knows it can scare you dunderheads into believing the Dem boogieman is going to take all your rights. The gun companies support the NRA in this because they’ll reap the immense profits from it after you all clamor in fear to buy up their guns and ammo. Think about it. America is the most armed to the teeth country in the world. Gun owners outnumber law enforcement in man power and number of guns possessed. The government isn’t going to take your guns any time soon. There will always be some kind of legislation barring assault weapons which makes sense since there are too many automatic weapons in the hands of idiots and criminals, and less responsible gun owners. Sadly, some people just shouldn’t own guns.

    Reply

  • DB Cooper

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    DJ, I have always been a Republican and a firm believer the constitution. Even those pesky parts dems dont care for like freedom of speach and the right to keep and bare arms.

    Reply

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