Why does the NRA’s fear mongering work so well?

Firearm sales are up.  CBS News reports:

President Obama has presided over a heyday for the gun industry despite predictions by the powerful U.S. gun lobby four years ago that he would be the “most anti-gun president in American history.” Gun buyers fear that Mr. Obama wants to restrict their purchases, especially if he were re-elected.

Now, I can remember back in early 2009, there was big increase in prices for weapons and ammunition, due to that same “fear that Mr. Obama wants to restrict their purchases”.  The fact that nothing of the sort happened does not deter them from worrying about it again.  The CBS news article quotes the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, as saying “This is the most dangerous election in our lifetimes.” (It always is, somehow.)

It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here–the NRA is creating a panic to drive sales.  It’s not even really a political move; it’s just a business decision–a marketing gimmick.  “Let’s tell everyone they need to buy our product now, before things change.”

Considering that Obama has made no attempt to push for any firearm legislation, this looks absurd.  Consider further that even if he did, it would almost surely fail in Congress, an that will be the case after the election as well.  And finally, consider that the Supreme Court would probably strike it down given the Court’s last interpretation of the Second Amendment.

So, taking all that in mind, why does this fairly obvious marketing campaign work so well?

I’ve said in the past that the the two worldviews I see as motivating much of the political disagreement in this country are nationalism and cosmopolitanism.  And I have also noted that nationalism tends to be the prevailing philosophy among rural populations, and that cosmopolitanism prevails among city dwellers.

When you factor that guns are owned by many in the country, but by few in the cities, you can start to see what I’m getting at: the fight is not really about guns.  Rather, it is just another in a series of proxy battles fought between the two philosophies.  Gun ownership is part of the rural culture, and not of the urban culture.

President Obama himself pointed this out with his famous “they cling to guns or religion” comment.  (Almost no one on either side actually disagrees with the substance of this comment; only the tone.) The political fight is not truly about the meaning of the Second Amendment–that is merely a pretext on which a culture war may be fought.  The real issue is a cultural one, not a legal one.

It is the same old story, over and over and over.  In this instance, the weapons manufacturers and sellers are taking a page from the political strategists’ book and playing on the rural people’s fears of cosmopolitan politicians.

1 Comment

  1. Every time a Dem is elected they ramp this up. At what point does every farm boy say he doesn’t need twenty five or fifty pistols, hunting rifles, asault rifes, shotguns and a barn full of ammunition?

What's your stake in this, cowboy?