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President's Column

By David A. Keene, President

Election 2012: On Guns … and Values

The hostility of most leftists in regard to the very notion that their fellow citizens might have a right to own firearms or to engage in the shooting sports is difficult for many of us to understand, until we realize it’s not just about guns. It’s about freedom and traditional American values. Prior to the beginning of the so-called culture wars of the late ‘60s, most Americans simply assumed that the Second Amendment means what it says; that individual American citizens have a right to “keep and bear” arms. Democrats and Republicans both supported the Second Amendment through the Kennedy administration. So widespread was this acceptance that the NRA didn’t have or need a “lobbying arm.”

The Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) wasn’t set up until it became clear that the rights of virtually all who engaged in the shooting sports or supported the Second Amendment were under siege. By then, some Americans came increasingly to view firearms—and, more importantly, those who own and use them—as symbols of an America they wanted to consign to the scrap heap of history. From their perches in our colleges and universities, the media and the “elite” circles in the nation’s urban centers came to view those who didn’t accept their values and perspectives as backward and even dangerous.

We became, in their minds, symbols of all who stand in the way of the brave new world they seek.

They extrapolated their opposition to the Vietnam War into a belief that the world would be a better place if the United States would simply give up the “weapons of war” which they so vocally oppose. They discount the existence and hostility of our enemies abroad and conclude that the world and the United States would be far better off if we unilaterally disarmed to let our enemies know once and for certain that all we want is a peaceful world.

The same reasoning shapes their views of the ownership of firearms here at home; they tend to blame firearm ownership, rather than criminals, for armed violence and believe that if we would all just give up our firearms it would be possible to usher in a new and far more peaceful world. What they really object to goes far beyond our ownership of firearms. They believe the traditional American individualist values that drove the nation’s founders to limit the power of government and protect our right to defend ourselves must give way to a new set of values that cedes governance to the state.

In a very real sense their hostility to firearms and the Second Amendment isn’t about guns or violence or crime; it’s about values. They see those who adhere to the values of the founders as a continuing threat to the new world they dream of creating, and quite correctly see those of us who support the Second Amendment as among the most hostile to their entire world view.

This was brought home recently as I reviewed poll data comparing the values of those living in gun owning and non-gun owning households. The data consistently confirms what we all know. Millions of Americans are gun owners—76 percent of self-identified conservatives and moderates live in gun-owning households; even 23 percent of self-identified liberals own guns. They are Republicans, Democrats, professionals and union members.

On other issues, the differences between those who live with firearms and those who don’t are stark. Gun owners tend to favor smaller government and less spending; while non-gun owners support bigger government and higher taxes without worrying much about deficits and spending. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that non-gun owners are twice as likely as gun owners to believe the country is on the right track today, while gun owners are far more skeptical.

These different perspectives will make a difference in this fall’s election. A majority of union members live in gun-owning households along with 36 percent of all Democratic voters. As these voters come to realize that another four years of Barack Obama means empowering elites that respect neither their rights nor the Second Amendment, the president could face real problems.

Our task—and the task of every Second Amendment supporter—is to find those gun owners who agree with us and get them to the polls on Nov. 6. In the meantime, take your children and grandchildren shooting or hunting. It matters. All of us need a break and you will find that many of those you run into at the range or in the field aren’t even registered to vote. If we find them and if they vote, the data tells us that Barack Obama will be retiring in January!