It seems that on many fronts, the American establishment right has been incapable of halting the advance of the left. There is one bright spot, however: more Americans are resisting encroachments against their right to self-defense by exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Gun stores have had 10.3 million firearms sales so far this year, according to a survey from the National Shooting Sports Foundation—a record for the period observed. Sales have surged by 95 percent when compared with the same timeframe in 2019.
Moreover, it seems likely that a significant portion of recent gun buyers are probably first-time owners. If that is the case, right-wing candidates may have new supporters. Armed voters tend to vote Republican. Electoral data in 2016 showed that households with firearms voted for Trump by a margin of 63 percent to 30 percent. While the new wave of gun owners is not a guaranteed constituency for the right, the present state of public disorder certainly has the potential to make new converts to traditional values and conservative politics.
These developments indicate that there is a genuine, persistent, grassroots demand for pro-Second Amendment policies, independent of Washington, D.C., and big donor funding. These successes were not born in some Republican consultant’s brain, but won through the grit and determination of local activists.
The right to bear arms is one of the few traditional constitutional rights that have been strengthened over the past few decades, rather than weakened. The Second Amendment has not only been preserved for the most part, a number of states have pushed the envelope by rolling back several forms of gun control.
Take license-to-carry laws, for example. During the 20th century, most states adopted some form of concealed carry licensing system. For a while, Vermont was the only state to allow constitutional carry, the right to carry a firearm without a permit. In 2003, Alaska lifted its concealed weapons permit requirement, becoming the second constitutional carry state. In 2010, when Arizona passed its own constitutional carry bill. From there, a wave of states followed suit. There are now 16 states with constitutional carry.
There is a divide on gun rights between urban and rural areas. The bulk of constitutional carry states tend to be rural and sparsely populated, with Arizona and Missouri as exceptions. More urbanized Republican-leaning red states like Georgia, Florida, and Texas are less likely to adopt constitutional carry due to their changing demographics and likelihood of flipping to Democratic control within the next decade. However, there are red states with substantial rural populations who have yet to pass constitutional carry, such as Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Ohio. The gun rights movement has room to grow.
The success of constitutional carry is not the only encouraging sign. Second Amendment sanctuary movements, in which local jurisdictions nullify unconstitutional state laws that attempt to impose draconian gun controls, are spreading, as Pedro Gonzalez noted in his recent reporting for Chronicles. This movement is not slowing down anytime soon.
The influence of Scotch-Irish heritage probably has something to do with the durability of the cause. As Chronicles Editor Paul Gottfried recently observed, a good portion of these gun control protesters may well be descendants of Scotch-Irish settlers. A fierce independence and resistance to centralized authority is part of Scotch-Irish folkways, as David Hackett Fischer wrote about in Albion’s Seed. Scotch-Irish chieftain John Calhoun embodied this ethos through his championing of state rights during the Nullification Crisis of 1832. Thus, no matter how hard our present-day managerial elites try to undermine these persistent, deeply engrained American traditions, the spirit of rebellion has not yet been scrubbed out of the American consciousness.
American gun owners will mobilize from the grassroots and assert themselves politically to preserve their Second Amendment rights. Whether establishment conservatives will jump on this movement remains to be seen. The real right, on the other hand, should have zero qualms about getting involved to fully protect and restore the Second Amendment.
José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas.