Millennials Are Less Likely to Support Gun Control Than You’d Think
Four years ago a man pointed a gun at Ryan Bradley and called him a “white devil.”
Ever since, he’s been passionate about gun rights.
“I never want to be in that situation again,” Bradley, 24, told NBC News. “Luckily, he didn’t shoot me but I can guarantee you if there was any gun laws on the books he would probably still have his gun.”
Sarah Clements, 20, became a gun control activist after her mother, a second grade teacher, survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I became an accidental activist, and realized that the only way I would be able to move forward from what happened was if I transformed my pain into positive action,” Clements told NBC News.
While Nza-Ari Khepra, 19, the co-founder of violence awareness campaigns Project Orange Tree and the Wear Orange campaign has been working to prevent gun violence ever since her friend Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013 after performing at the White House days earlier.
Millennials are often thought of as more liberal than their older peers, but recent polling shows that they’re less likely than those over 30 to support stricter gun laws.
An October 2015 Gallup poll found that 50 percent of 18–29-year-olds support stricter gun laws compared to 57 percent of those 30–49, 56 percent among those 50–64, and 55 percent among those 65 and older.
This is in contrast to social issues such as sex between unmarried people, having children outside of marriage, and LGBT issues, where younger people skew far more liberal, according to Gallup Poll Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport.
“Millennials are … less interested in gun control than those who are older, so the data suggests it’s unlike a number of other attitudes say like, gay marriage where young people are much more liberal,” he said. “We did not see that in our data on guns.”
And a recent ABC News/Refinery 29 poll shows that the same percentage (11 percent) of women age 18–35 list gun rights as the most important issue in this election as those who list abortion.
For Khepra and Clements, gun control isn’t about taking firearms from people, it’s about making sure the wrong people don’t have access to dangerous weapons through proposals such as increasing background checks, implementing waiting periods after purchasing guns, and a ban on semi-automatic guns.
“We as gun reform activists need to continuously say we support the Second Amendment — we are not trying to do away with it or ‘take away all the guns.’ That said, I do not believe it gives us the right to own a gun anytime, by anyone, and to be taken anywhere,” Clements told NBC News.
But Bradley doesn’t think that more gun laws would do anything to help prevent shootings.
Bradley says he’d take gun control proponents to a gun range and have them shoot if they’ve never done it so they can have the experience, and then have a “civil debate” with them.
“We’re talking about a fundamental right, we’re talking about the Second Amendment which is a guaranteed right to self-defense,” he said. Feelings don’t belong. I don’t think that somebody should be using derogatory language to somebody but they have the First Amendment right to do so and nobody’s talking about taking that First Amendment right away. So I think that gun control supporters need to bring something more to the table than just feelings.”
While Khepra has never shot a gun, she said that she didn’t think that would change her support of gun restrictions.
“I’ve never shot a gun and I hopefully never will. That’s not necessarily something that’s on my to-do-list,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I’ve been exposed to a lot of guns, I’m from the South Side of Chicago, and I can understand why people would want them, I understand the whole protection measure I definitely get that. But that’s not something that I’m trying to infringe upon. I just think that there’s a way to be protected and there’s a way to make sure that other people around you are protected.”
This debate is ongoing as the country approaches an election and deals with the recent shootings in Dallas, along with the deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, carrying guns in Louisiana and Minnesota.
“With the shootings and the deaths that have occurred since, it’s possible gun attitudes have changed overall with the whole population and you never know whether it could differentially have affected young people,” Newport told NBC News.
Bradley is concerned about Hillary Clinton and her possible Supreme Court picks if she’s elected.
“We haven’t had a candidate as bad on the Second Amendment as Hillary Clinton,” he told NBC News.
But Dillon is concerned about recent shootings and people having the “misconception” that more gun laws are the answer. She declined to comment on the Sterling and Castile cases but stressed that she believes everyone has the right to carry a gun.
For Clements, those deaths show that the Second Amendment really isn’t for everyone.
“We saw in the past two weeks the realistic interpretation by law enforcement and white establishments: time and again, it’s clear that the Second Amendment over-simplification that anyone can have a gun slung on their hip, and anywhere they please only applies to white people,” she told NBC News.
Khepra says that no matter how the gun violence occurred, it shows that something needs to change.
“I am devastated by the current political climate. Just within the past weeks, we’ve seen how the many forms of gun violence ravages our nation’s cities—in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, Orlando, and countless other cities,” she said.
“Although these tragedies have many differences, one commonality is the pain that manifested from far too many families and communities losing loved ones. My familiarity with this pain is what is driving me to prevent more, to make a difference.”