For millennials, gun control isn’t very appealing as a policy solution.
Even though millennials are the least likely group of adults to own a gun, their views on the right to own a gun follows older generations closely. The “ban guns” generation, this is not.
That support for “permissive gun laws” is “mysterious,” according to The Washington Post.
Not only mysterious, but troubling for the Democratic Party.
“If anything, we may be slightly more blasé about them than our elders. Which does not bode well for liberals hoping that the arc of history will eventually bend toward greater gun control,” Catherine Rampell writes.
In some cases, millennials are more gung-ho about guns than their parents. As Rampell mentions, millennials are less likely to support stricter gun laws than anyone older than 55.
Given that millennials tilt toward the Democratic Party by a 16-point margin, it’s “puzzling.” Even when pollsters go from abstract to specific, millennials stubbornly stick to gun ownership over gun control.
Rampell doesn’t present an explanation for why, exactly, millennials follow the general population on supporting gun rights, but concludes that politicians aren’t listening to the public on specific gun control measures.
“Despite such public support, of course, nothing has happened, presumably because politicians are more fearful of the gun lobby than their own constituents’ views on gun control. (Shocker, I know, that legislation doesn’t necessarily reflect the democratic will of the people),” she writes.
On a national level, at least, that seems true. A majority of Democrats and Republicans support background checks, a federal database to track gun sales, and laws that prevent the mentally ill from buying guns, according to Pew. More restrictions on the local and state level pop up, though, so a larger issue might be a narrow-but-specific push for national legislation. Attempts tend to sputter out and die, or get compromises and irrelevant measures added that can derail efforts.
One explanation for persistent millennial support, even with a strong tendency toward the Democratic Party, could be the strength of libertarianism among younger voters. While libertarians see little national success, they can influence policy or find convenient political alliances with conservatives and liberals.
Given that some polls have found up to 20 percent of millennials identifying as libertarians, they could bridge the gap. Though they self-describe as independent most often, self-described libertarians in the Republican and Democratic Parties are almost equal.
Even if millennials tend toward the Democratic Party, it doesn’t mean the youth will revolt against guns. If anything, it could mean a transformation of the debate surrounding guns away from a cultural signal and toward more scrutiny on whether gun laws unjustly prevent access and how effective they are at preventing crime.
A shift in the gun debate that returns to questions of individual rights and effective policy would be welcome, even if millennials remain mysterious and perplexing in their political opinions.