I’ve learned over time that the perceptions you had as a child are not always accurate.
For instance, I always thought everyone was basically happy, life was fair, and we would live virtually forever. I also thought almost everybody hunted.
Being raised in a semirural lifestyle in an agricultural area contributed to this vision, I’m sure. All of the kids I knew hunted and when we found one who didn’t, we weren’t quite sure what to think about him. We either felt sorry for him because we figured his dad wouldn’t take him or worse if we found he just wasn’t interested.
I now know that roughly only 7 percent of Americans hunt and that figure is pretty much in line in South Carolina. As it turns out, we were always in the minority, and that gap is widening according to the latest General Social Survey.
According to that survey, 32 percent of Americans either own firearms or live with someone who does. That is a significant drop from the 50 percent recorded in the same survey in the late 1970s.
Furthermore, the number of Americans who own a gun or live in a household with one is probably linked to the decline in the popularity of hunting. In 1977, the survey found that about a third of Americans lived in a household with at least one hunter. That number in 2014 had dropped to about 16 percent.
Interestingly enough, it seems the number of firearms being sold has held steady or increased. These guns are being concentrated in fewer hands -- 22 percent of Americans own a firearm as opposed to 31 percent in the same survey in 1985.
About 35 percent of men and 12 percent of women own a firearm. Young people are turning away from firearms, with only 14 percent of those under 35 owning guns as opposed to 31 percent of people over 35 years of age being owners.
As might be expected, half of Republican households have guns while only about 25 percent of Democratic households do. Whites are twice as likely to own a gun than other races. The 72 percent who support requiring a permit to own a gun has fallen from the 82 percent high supporting it in 1987.
So what does this mean other than the obvious hard facts? Foremost to me it enforces what we all know. Hunting is slowly waning away and may disappear or not be recognizable in a generation or two.
While only 7 percent of Americans hunt and about 5 percent are anti-hunters, the 88 percent who don’t care either way control the future of hunting and gun ownership. So it would behoove hunters to always be on their best behavior.
If you read into the numbers, it appears that gun owners are very concerned about losing that right as they are buying multiple guns. Ammunition is being bought up as fast as it hits the shelves for guns that most easily might fall under some future ban.
People also appear to want guns for protection in their homes, as only 16 percent live with hunters, but twice that many (32 percent)own firearms.
People with higher incomes are much more likely to own guns than the poor. Even though crime rates are declining in some major cities, people seem to fear being victims of violent crime more as concealed weapons permits are skyrocketing.
To summarize, I think the general public (specifically the shooting public) realizes that it will take just one more liberal justice on the Supreme Court to alter or reverse the Second Amendment to the Constitution and that will be forever.
Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.
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