I had one of my friends the other day send me a Snapchat the other day that frankly surprised me. It was a snap of him putting together an AR-10 that he had purchased the parts for and was putting together himself. Now I didn’t find the idea of him shooting or handling a gun all that shocking since we both were raised in households that had guns in them. We have at that point even been shooting together multiples times, including the time I took one of his exes to shoot her first gun with us. What made this shocking was the fact that this was his gun.
To be clear, I am a gun owner. I currently own an old M1 Garande with an interest in firing historical firearms. When I do shoot, I target shoot. Otherwise, my ownership of the Garande was never about a thought of self defense or hunting. My friend up to that point had never owned a gun. His parents had owned a few guns, but their ownership was based in the historical fascination of the weapon and target shooting. Not with a mind toward hunting or self defense. This had confused me then as to why he was putting together an AR-10 that wouldn’t have what I assumed wouldn’t hold an historical interest to him.
The answer he gave me, “I feel like my girlfriend and I need it now.”
“You mean for protection?”
This was pretty shocking coming from this guy. He’s a pretty liberal dude after all and we had many conversations up to that point about gun control policy. Mainly about policies such as red flag laws, back ground checks, and even assault weapons ban which he was in favor of. He had stated in the past he had never wanted to own a firearm or have it around his family, since he saw it as a tool of violence with not much other use. So for him to send me a snap out of the blue with that image was fairly shocking.
“So what do you mean that you need that for protection?” I had asked him.
“Well just take a look at what’s going on.” He replied and began listing off different events such as the riots, Charlottesville, the rise of right wing militias, and finally the Lafayette Park incident where Donald Trump had peaceful protesters forcibly and violently removed for a photo op. He went on to explain that while he had ranted against the 2A supporters in the past who were worried about a hypothetical apocalyptical scenario where either the government or society through some means tries to take over and stifle your rights as pretty conspiratorial at best. When he saw the abuse by law enforcement and government for partisan political gain for Donald Trump though, that’s what finally changed his mind about gun ownership. He saw how undercover and unmarked federal agents were snagging people off the street in Portland in unmarked vehicles. He saw in those moments that the 2As weren’t entirely crazy in their theories and that it could happen. That scared him and his girlfriend and so that motivated him to purchase his own gun for protection.
In the wake of this I began to wonder how many other people on the left wing were beginning to think and do the same. While I understand his situation is different and does have some theoretical variables (i.e. being raised in a family that owned guns, having shot guns in the past, living in a state with a pro 2A culture, etc.) that could theoretically make gun ownership an easier thought to grasp, I still wonder if there was a trend appearing in broader society.
While I wish I could say that I knew the answer to that answer, there hasn’t been really any significant new statistical data on gun ownership and party affiliation in America since 2017. However, 2017 and 2020 have been very different years. 2020 has been a hellish year to say the least, and the gun purchasing statistics back that sentiment up. Several spikes have occurred in 2020 as Americans have seen protests break out over racism, police brutality, and the handling of the pandemic which has created a feeling of distrust towards the government which has spurned gun purchases.
That’s not to say that my friend has been alone either. Many moderates that I know in the past that wouldn’t have been interested in the past at owning a gun are suddenly interested in owning a firearm. This is not to say to that society at large could be experiencing the same, but there is something here and GOP gun owners can’t be saying that democrats aren’t willing to arm themselves in response to continued societal unease. This is also concerning since we are still even after the election feeling partisan tension that has at times escalated to violence, particularly among more partisan extremist groups. My own hope is that this doesn’t lead to a violent encounter in the future in these precarious times. If you are a politically left leaning individual, please feel free to share you story or if you know someone else who has done the same thing.