GUNS AND PARTISAN POLITICS
Recoil|March - April 2021
It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again
Ashley Hlebinsky

Did you know you can own a firearm regardless of political affiliation? Of course, you did. So, if pretty much everyone, regardless of politics, can own and have owned firearms, why is “the gun” today considered only a tool of the Right?

Too bad that answer isn’t simple. However, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Some may reference the National Rifle Association — see Ackerman McQueen — for what was a successful campaign to unite its current membership base using identity politics. Through their “I am the NRA” campaign, they united people from all walks of life, economic status, races, genders, and sexual orientations through the common need for self-defense. In a sense, they framed a collective political identity for an individual right. That is, of course, as long as you weren’t a liberal snowflake. And on the flip side, recent Democratic politicians have a nasty habit of fighting for gun control, highlighting to many gun owners on the Right hypocrisy in the term “liberal gun owner.”

But that doesn’t stop them from existing. According to a Pew Research poll from 2018, the political breakdown between Republican and Republican-leaning gun owners versus Democrat or Democrat-leaning gun owners was 44 and 20 percent, respectively. While that certainly shows more firearms ownership amongst the Right, 20 percent is still nothing to turn your nose up at. Furthermore, today, organizations exist for left-leaning gun owners, such as the Liberal Gun Club — founded in 2008. As someone who was a registered Democrat and liberal gun owner when I initially got interested in firearms, I have and continue today to ponder the thoughts: When did partisan politics take over a subject that objectively has no reason to be political at all? And if this is a more recent division, are we beyond the point of stripping guns away from politics and letting it just be the tool that it is?

Unfortunately, the answers to the universe (42) aren’t found in this article, and it probably won’t solve anything. However, this is a mental exercise to speculate from whence partisan politics around the gun came and if it isn’t too late to return to sender.

LIBERALISM AND GUNS

When I initially got interested in firearms history, I was a registered Democrat and most of my gun-owning friends were Democrats. Furthermore, as I studied the macro-history of firearms, which spans 500 years, I couldn’t really understand the politicization of guns. In the grand scheme of that history, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that Republicans and Democrats even existed, so how did the two-party system grab such a hold on our guns?

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