The “gun lobby” is often pointed to as an example of political power, but if serious gun owners, the “firearms fraternity,” were to place as much emphasis on voting and voter education as we do on safety and safety education, we would be the most powerful voting block in the country.
Unintentional firearms injuries and fatalities have dropped by some 60 percent over the past 20 years, while the number of firearms in circulation has more than doubled. These amazing results are not due to government programs, laws or regulations. They are a result of education and an almost universal acceptance of and insistence on adherence to the basic rules of firearms safety.
Gun owners not only practice firearms safety, but also advocate for it and expect it from others, and they shun anyone who fails to abide by the rules. The improving firearms-safety record is a stellar example of positive peer pressure. We in the firearms fraternity need to extend that success into the realm of voting.
Gun owners should view voting in every election – and having a general understanding of the candidates’ positions regarding rights – as a core obligation for themselves, their friends and their family.
Those who do not vote – regardless of their excuse or rationalization – should be seen as letting down their brothers and sisters in arms. They are failing in their obligation as citizens and empowering the enemies of liberty. In short, gun voters need to look at gun owners who don’t vote with the same incredulity that they would look at a person who recklessly waves a gun around with a finger on the trigger.
Excuses like, “My vote doesn’t matter,” should be received with the same disdain shown when someone says, “Hey, it isn’t loaded.”
While it is too much to expect every gun owner to immerse themselves in politics, it is not too much to expect them to cast an informed vote every time the polls open.
Activist gun voters can do more than they might realize to improve the turnout among other gun owners by using social pressure. That’s because social pressure is what gets most people to the polls in the first place.
Experts who research voting patterns and motives have boiled it down to these few broad factors:
- “Does my vote matter?”
- “Will my vote benefit me or others?”
- “Do I feel obligated to vote regardless of benefit or impact?”
- “How much does voting cost me in time, hassle, etc.?”
If the answers to the first three questions outweigh the answer to the last question, the person votes; otherwise they don’t. With most people realizing that their one vote, among thousands or millions, does not affect the outcome of an election, it is the sense of duty, obligation or tradition that tips the scale in favor of voting.
It is that sense of obligation that activists need to plant and nurture in every gun owner and to spread to every close friend and family member of gun owners. Gun owners are generally good about voting, but we must work to make it a core tenet of the “firearms fraternity” that gun owners vote every chance they get. And they vote with individual rights at the top of their candidate-qualification criteria.
As patriots and inheritors of the sacred trust of the Second Amendment, gun owners have a duty to vote as an expression of faith in our Constitution and way of life, as an expression of appreciation and connection to the men and women who gave us these blessings and those who have defended them through the generations.
Voting is not only homage to the past, but also a promise to future generations that we will do everything we can to provide them with the same rights and opportunities that our parents and grandparents passed on to us.
Along with stressing these traditional values, we must establish a new tradition of voting as the fulfillment of an obligation to one another to do our part to protect the Second Amendment and the entire Constitution. If we can develop and nurture such a voting culture among gun owners, we can be the most formidable force in American politics.
An important step toward achieving this goal is easy access to reliable information about elections and candidates. That is what GunVoter.org is all about. The vast majority of Americans – gun owners and non-gun owners alike – are simply not interested in politics and find it confusing and unsettling. That leaves it up to gun noters like you and me, those of us who do follow politics, to make sure that the rest of the fraternity can easily find the information they need to be responsible, informed voters – gun voters.