David Frum writes on the racial and political politics behind the gun lobby's power.
Only about one-third of American households now own a gun, compared to about one-half in 1973. Much of this decline can be traced to the fading of hunting as an American pastime. Only about 6 percent of Americans hunt even once in a year. That’s just slightly more than the number who attended a ballet performance: 3.9 percent. Yet a smaller group of gun owners manages to exercise more political power. As gun ownership has dwindled, the remaining cohort has coalesced into a compact and self-conscious minority, for whom guns represent an ideology even more than a sport or hobby.
Republicans are nearly twice as likely to own a gun as Democrats are. White Americans are twice as likely to own a gun as nonWhite Americans. Among Americans under age 30, only about one in five owns a gun. Among Americans over age 50, one in three owns a gun. Nearly half of men own a gun; only 13 percent of women do. Southerners are 50 percent more likely to own a gun than Easterners, the South being the most gun-owning region and the East being the least.
Add it all up, and the core gun constituency looks a lot like the Tea Party on the firing range: Two-thirds of American households own no guns at all. The vast majority of households that own a gun own only one. Opposing them, a small minority—about 6 percent of American households—have amassed 65 percent of the nation’s privately owned firearms. That group is very White, very Southern, and very conservative indeed.