We don’t talk about this much, but the Second Amendment community has a big problem: infighting. While those who seek to limit 2A rights are largely unified in their dislike for our right to keep and bear arms, we’re not nearly so put-together. Unity? Forget it. We’ve managed to segment ourselves into a hundred little sub-groups that spend our time bickering with each other about small differences while our opposition is focused on the long-term big picture. If you’ll pardon my preaching a little bit, I’ll just say it: This has to stop.
Let me remind us that the Second Amendment was written for everyone. Everyone! That means people of every race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and more. The sooner we fully embrace that truth, the better.
I’m not sure where it all went sideways, but possibly the biggest split in the gun-owning community is between old-school traditional hunters and non-hunting shooters who lean toward the tactical side. These types of hunters grouse that they’re happy with their shotguns and wood-stocked bolt-action rifles and that should be enough for anyone, and they spout the dangerous line, “No one needs an AR-15 anyway.” The shooters, on the other hand, dismiss hunters like this as hopelessly outdated and soft. While there are loads of hunters who also shoot and vice versa, and thus don’t fall into either of these categories, there are enough people on the extreme ends to cause a bit of a rift.
And then there’s politics. Those who seek control tend to run over the live-and-let-live folks who just want to be left alone.
The tension between those two types of people has caused another rift in the Second Amendment community, largely based around politics. It’s to the point that a conservative gun owner hears the word “Democrat” and jumps to a whole lot of conclusions about that individual’s opinions on guns. But the truth is that according to research, 31% of Democrats live in a household with a gun (it’s 61% for Republicans). That’s almost one-third of Democrat voters who share at least some interest in the Second Amendment with Republicans. Now, most of us think those folks are voting against their own interests, and that’s a bigger discussion, but this speaks to the big-picture political division we’re seeing in the U.S. these days. Most people don’t agree with every single talking point of the political party with which they’re affiliated, and gun ownership is no exception.
Because the Second Amendment is for everyone, we’d do well to embrace gun ownership by anyone who wants and can legally own a firearm. That’s the gateway. Then we bring them deeper into the fold by recommending training, teaching safety, and eventually encouraging gun owners to think about the policies and politicians they’re voting for and how those votes affect gun ownership and freedom.
Our infighting goes deeper than political parties, though. While women have always handled firearms and hunted, it’s only in the last few decades that the 2A community at large really embraced and started encouraging female participation on a large scale. And let’s not forget that this nation, in its early days, had an ugly history surrounding the topic of gun ownership by people of color. Although things still might not be perfect in that arena, we’ve come a long way since then. The NSSF reported in July 2020 that gun buying by Black Americans jumped 58% in the first half of that year (51% for whites, 49% for Hispanics, and 42% for Asians). This is great news. It should go without saying at this point, but racism and sexism have no place in the Second Amendment community.
More and more identity groups are forming to help promote gun ownership among people who haven’t traditionally been a part of the 2A community. Organizations like the Pink Pistols, Asian Pacific American Gun Owners Association, Armed Equality, National African American Gun Association and many more are helping bring gun ownership to those who haven’t always felt welcome, including racial minorities and those in the LGBTQ community.
In 2021, the gun magazine Recoil posted three potential covers on Instagram and asked fans to pick their favorite. The featured image was prominent 2A advocate Chris Cheng, who is Asian and openly gay, holding a rifle and wearing a shirt with a rainbow-colored American flag—and the response from fans was overwhelmingly negative. To their credit, Recoil’s staff stood their ground, kept Chris (and his rainbow shirt) on the cover, and posted a thoughtful response that included the statement, “We maintain that the Second Amendment is for all Americans.”
This incident showed us just how far the 2A community has to go when it comes to embracing people who don’t look, think, speak or act just like ourselves. It should be obvious, but people can identify with more than one group at a time, even if those two groups haven’t traditionally overlapped. With more than 100 million gun owners in America, it’s practically impossible to fit them all into one mold. It sounds like a political cliché, but our diversity really can be our strength. The right to keep and bear arms should transcend all other affiliations. Don’t let identity politics (or anything else) divide the 2A community. The Second Amendment is for everyone!