Pundits find themselves befuddled. In an era of supposed progressive triumph, marijuana legalization enjoys majority support and gay and lesbian couples are gaining the same rights as straight couples to glare at each other across the breakfast table comfortable in the knowledge that their uneasy detente enjoys the protection of the law. So how is it that proposals for draconian gun restrictions are stalled at the federal level and some states are even loosening firearms restrictions?
Won't you think of the children?
Actually, won't you think of the intriguing fact that younger Americans tend to support both gay marriage and gun rights? The future may well be full of very domestic and rather well-armed same-sex couples. In an article that plays with several reasons why policy is moving so quickly in one direction on gay marriage, but unpredictably if at all on gun control. National Journal's Jill Lawrence rejects the president's fulminating as "marginal at best" and points out that NRA clout is more of a result of larger cultural factors than a determining factor itself. At least one important factor driving policy change and the lack thereof is the preferences of the up and coming generation.
From National Journal:
Demographics offers one answer. Acceptance of gay marriage in the political world is being driven in part by polling that shows overwhelming support for it among young people. By contrast, at least two polls this spring show there is no corresponding generation gap on guns.
People aged 18 to 34 are slightly more supportive of universal background checks than older people and a bit less supportive of limits on the size of ammunition magazines, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Those aged 18 to 39 are more likely to oppose a ban on assault weapons, a Washington Post/ABC poll found. However, both polls found the younger groups back the general idea of new restrictions on guns and most specific proposals at about the same level as the rest of the country.
Reason's own polling has found similar results. For instance, in September 2012, A Reason-Rupe poll found that 59 percent of respondents aged 18-29 favored legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, while a post-Newtown January 2013 Reason-Rupe poll found that 63 percent of respondents aged 18-34 agreed that Americans should continue to be able to own "assault weapons." In fact, only the over-55 contingent in the second poll supported an "assault weapon" ban (that same poll found that people have no consistent idea of what an assault weapon is, by the way).
At least in terms of social issues, younger Americans seem to favor, to a greater extent than their elders, tolerance and expanded personal freedom. That preference prevails without regard for whether that stance on any given issue is Team Red, Team Blue, or something else entirely.
Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.
If you have a story that would be of interest to Reason's readers please let us know by emailing the 24/7 crew at email@example.com, or tweet us stories at @reason247.