Adam Winkler, Washington Post, October 19, 2015
The recent deadly shooting at an Oregon community college, like so many before it, isn’t likely to lead to new federal laws designed to curb dangerous people’s access to guns. While this understandably frustrates supporters of gun safety legislation, there is reason for them to be hopeful. The National Rifle Association’s days of being a political powerhouse may be numbered.
Why? The answer is in the numbers.
Support for, and opposition to, gun control is closely associated with several demographic characteristics, including race, level of education and whether one lives in a city. Nearly all are trending forcefully against the NRA.
The core of the NRA’s support comes from white, rural and relatively less educated voters. This demographic is currently influential in politics but clearly on the wane. While the decline of white, rural, less educated Americans is generally well known, less often recognized is what this means for gun legislation.
Polls show that whites tend to favor gun rights over gun control by a significant margin (57 percent to 40 percent). Yet whites, who comprise 63 percent of the population today, won’t be in the majority for long. Racial minorities are soon to be a majority, and they are the nation’s strongest supporters of strict gun laws.
An overwhelming majority of African Americans say that gun control is more important than gun rights (72 percent to 24 percent). While the African American population shows signs of slow growth, other racial minority groups are growing more rapidly–and report even greater support for gun control.
The fastest-growing minority group in America is Latinos. Between 2000 and 2010, the nation’s Latino population grew by 43 percent. Hispanics, which make up 17 percent of the population today, are expected to grow to 30 percent of the population in the coming decades.
Gun control is extremely popular among Hispanics, with 75 percent favoring gun safety over gun rights.
Asian Americans also represent a growing anti-gun demographic. Although only about 5 percent of the population today, the Asian American population is predicted to triple over the next few decades. A recent poll of Asian American registered voters found that 80 percent supported stricter gun laws.
Of course, the NRA will continue to fight, and fight hard, against gun control. But the heart of the organization’s power is the voters it can turn out to vote, and they are likely to decline in number. Unless the organization begins to soften its no-compromises stance on gun safety legislation, it’s likely to become increasingly marginalized in a changing America.