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Gun Violence Awareness Day Shows NRA Is Losing the Culture War

06/01/2015 01:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2016
PAUL J. RICHARDS via Getty Images

Right after the Sandy Hook massacre we were treated to a rant from Wayne-o in which the head of the NRA blamed gun violence, among other things, on "a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life." He then castigated "media conglomerates" for bringing murder and violence as entertainment motifs into every American home. In defending gun ownership following this horrendous event, the NRA found it expedient and effective to rally its troops around the idea that popular culture and gun culture don't mix.

I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns. The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won't really matter if the country's dominant culture becomes anti-gun. And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the "culture wars," the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun.

How can I say that when recent opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that guns make America a safer place? I'll tell you why. First, the surveys which ask Americans if guns make them safer also show that less than a majority actually own guns. Second, despite the Obama-driven spike in gun sales, the industry has not managed to penetrate new demographics such as women and minorities; most guns and ammunition sold in the last few years went to the same-old, same-old who bought those guns for the same reason that gun sales have spiked at other times, namely, the fear of losing their guns. Finally and most important, the social and political views of millennials are completely at odds with the socio-demographic profile of the gun-owning population, and as millennials become the dominant generation, this could have dire consequences for the health and even survival of the gun industry as a whole.

According to Pew, a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012. As for Boomers, who buy and own most of the guns, they don't support gays, they are fiercely patriotic, a majority are religious and they split their vote evenly in 2012. What these numbers tell me is that over the next twenty years, the gun industry better come up with a wholly different argument for owning guns.

Gun Violence Awareness Day, as reported ruefully by Brietbart and other pro-gun blogs, garnered support from movie, song and media personalities like Russell Simmons, Aasif Mandvi, Padma Lakshmi, Amanda Peet, Tunde Adebimpe and many, many more. I'm actually a pre-boomer, and I don't have the faintest idea who any of these people are. But I do know the celebs who show up each year at the NRA shindig; guys like Chuck Norris and Ollie North. Wow -- talk about young, hip and cool.

Another master-stroke in planning this event was using orange to build identity and awareness for the folks who get involved. Orange, or blaze orange as it is known, has always been worn by hunters and many states require it for anyone goes out after game. Brady and Shannon's Moms, among other organizations, have lately moved into the safety space which was owned lock, stock and barrel by the NRA. Guess who now shares and could soon own that space?

Until recently, the playing field where gun violence arguments played out was controlled by the NRA. But right now the field is tilting the other way. And notice how millennial culture has no problem attaching the word 'violence' to the word 'guns.' This alone should make the NRA wonder if their message can win or even compete for hearts and minds. The NRA always assumed that gun owners would defend their guns while everyone else just sat by. After June 2, I wouldn't want to take that assumption to the bank.