People like to talk about how difficult it is to change things in this country, how everything is controlled by those few people who have real money, and how, if you’re not a billion dollar political campaign contributor, you’re kidding yourself if you think you have a say in politics. But every now and then an issue develops that inspires the public’s passions and moves them to demonstrate en masse in the hopes of bringing about social change. That’s a phenomenon that not even the Koch Brothers could totally silence.

Grassroots movements aren’t common, but when they happen, they’re affirmations of every democratic ideal cynics have long since dismissed. Everyday people can make a difference. Justice can occur even when there isn’t tons of money behind it. But if all of that’s true, then why hasn’t gun control – something you’d think enough people agree is just flat-out common sense – taken off as the next big grassroots movement?

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Nearly half of all Americans (that’s 47%, according to a recent Gallup poll) favor stricter gun control measures. Surely that’s enough to start putting the pressure on, right? And the answer can’t simply be that the use of guns is just too widespread; remember when everyone could smoke everywhere? You used to smoke in airplanes, and now you can’t even smoke in most restaurants. Nowadays, in New York State, there’s a $4.35 tax on cigarettes – when an average pack costs $5.51. Why couldn’t there be a social movement that makes gun owners social pariahs, as we did with cigarette smokers? Why couldn’t there be legislation that makes purchasing guns prohibitively expensive for many Americans, like we did for cigarettes?

The main reason is pretty simple: 47% of Americans might want stricter gun control laws, but you can be sure the passion of that 47% won’t measure up to the other 53%. In case you haven’t noticed, gun owners tend to be a dedicated lot. And there’s never been a Charlton Heston-type figure for anti-gun groups. It’s more a scattered group of people saying, “Hey, this is probably a good idea.” And so it goes.

Because, really, who would gun control effect more on a day to day basis? This isn’t like smoking, where people have to put up with secondhand smoke, a gross smell, and a huge burden on the health care system. If you’re a gun control advocate, you’re probably only very passionate about the issue if you know someone who has been a victim of gun violence. That includes way too many people – 100,000 people a year – but it doesn’t approach the number of gun owners in the country: 42% of Americans have a gun in their home.

Many of those people with guns in their home aren’t willing to budge an inch when it comes to gun control. They buy into the slippery slope argument and believe that any perceived encroachment on their Second Amendment rights will lead to forced turnovers of all of their guns. It’s just a fact that people are going to care a lot more about keeping something they already have than trying to take something away from other people, especially when they probably aren’t affected on a daily basis by the thing they’re trying to take away.

But say gun violence gets even worse – bad enough to start caring about who can have them and who can’t. There still is the little fact that gun ownership is a Constitutionally protected right. And if a grassroots movement actually gains some steam and becomes a real threat to this right, the pro-gun people are going to be ready. That’s the exact scenario they’ve been preparing for ever since Obama took office.

There was an ammunition shortage when there was just speculation Obama would support stricter gun control. Can you imagine the hysteria that would erupt if the Second Amendment was actually directly threatened? The pro-gun people have much more experience at this sort of thing, since they’ve been running fire drills for the better part of the last hundred years. If change is going to happen for gun control, it will probably have to come from the top.

Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons)

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Holly Whitman

Holly Whitman is the author behind Only Slightly Biased, a freelance journalist and striving to be one of the best women political writers on the web. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Fortune, Politicus, Bust and Feministing. You can find her on Twitter at @hollykwhitman.

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