National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre has brilliantly led the NRA for years, but his latest speech at the NRA convention in Atlanta might have just alienated potential and existing millennial supporters, and tarnished the group’s universal message.
Rather than simply directing his speech at the NRA’s gun control opponents in government and elsewhere, he took aim at one specific demographic group — millennials — calling them an “uninformed, self-absorbed, self-minded generation.” By clouding his message with stereotypes and seeming to blame millennials for the propagation of gun control culture in our society, LaPierre ultimately hurt the cause of gun rights advocates everywhere.
Throughout the speech, LaPierre took some justified swipes at academia, the media and the leftist politicians who have twisted the minds of many millennials, but he should have stopped there. These peddlers of gun control have done more damage to the Second Amendment than millennials at-large and they deserve to be exposed as charlatans.
There’s no need to put down the millennials who drank the Kool-Aid.
LaPierre spoiled the opportunity to connect with young adults by resorting to the same old clichéd attacks on millennials that we’ve all heard from social commentators. We are tired of being called the “me” generation, and don’t need yet another baby boomer telling us that we’re a bunch of dysfunctional losers. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “participation trophies” used in the same sentence as “millennials,” I’d be a wealthy man. It gets old after a while.
Millennials are sick of being diagnosed and talked down to. They want to hear solutions.
The NRA chief came off as out-of-touch with young people, reinforcing the false stereotype that the NRA is just a bunch of old white guys. Over the past couple decades, the NRA has brought increasing numbers of young people into its tent, dropping the average age of its members down from 60 to 40-45. There’s still plenty of work to do with this generation, but using them as scapegoats is no way to increase their support.
Moreover, LaPierre’s attacks are a bit misdirected. Millennials are quickly becoming the most pro-gun of any generation. A 2015 Gallup poll found that only 50 percent of millennials want stricter gun laws. Compare that to 57 percent of those 30-49 and 56 percent of those 50-64 and 55 percent of those 65 and older who want the same. Additionally, a 2016 Fox News poll found that 50 percent of millennials believed guns made people safer.
It’s tempting to attack all millennials as snowflakes, but this is no way to bring new faces into the fold. The NRA must reach out to the next generation of leaders and keep them top of mind in their messaging; however, talking about millennials is far different from talking to millennials.