The New York Times says that a renewed national gun debate sparked by the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., has gotten the attention of a subset of people who are often overlooked: gun control supporters who own guns.
Many of these gun owners will never take part in marches or make public speeches. But interviews with two dozen gun owners around the country found what polls have shown — that many of them are firm supporters of some gun control measures. Some have grown more vocal, holding signs at demonstrations, lobbying lawmakers or writing letters to the editor, adding their voices to those of the protesting students.
The shift could also have political implications: Some gun owners said they are now paying closer attention to which political candidates receive money from the NRA, which takes a hard line against firearm limits.
Of the 60 million to 70 million Americans who own guns, measuring how many are likely to take part in activism in favor of gun control or to change their political choices over the issue is difficult, the Times says. One rough proxy for those who do not want tougher gun laws could be the 5 million gun owners the NRA claims as members.
Tom Galinat, 35, a Vermont farmer and hunter who owns nine guns, traveled last month the state capital to try to convince lawmakers to enact a ban on high-capacity magazines.
And as thousands of demonstrators gathered in Nashville in March for student-led marches against gun violence, R. Sterling Haring, 33, a doctor and the owner of several guns including an assault-style rifle, addressed the crowd. He decided it was his duty to push for gun control when wounded children were flown to his hospital after a Kentucky school shooting in January.
“I honestly believe that God-fearing, gun-owning Americans should be leading the debate on gun laws,” Haring said.
Meanwhile, other gun enthusiasts prompted by an NRA blast are blowing up their expensive Yeti coolers (which cost up to $1,300) in what the Washington Post called “ritual anger” about the firm’s alleged termination of an NRA discount.
They are acting on a letter to NRA members sent by the NRA Institute for Legislative Action announcing that Yeti had severed ties with the NRA Foundation, following the lead of other companies in the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shooting.
The letter, sent by former NRA president and current lobbyist Marion P. Hammer, said the company “declined to do business with The NRA Foundation” without prior notice and “refused to say why.”
“They will only say they will no longer sell products to The NRA Foundation,” Hammer wrote. “That certainly isn’t sportsmanlike. In fact, YETI should be ashamed.”
But on Monday, just as the backlash and calls for boycott picked up steam, Yeti said in a statement on Yeti’s Facebook account that the NRA letter was “inaccurate.” The Austin-based retailer said it notified various organizations, including the NRA Foundation, that it was eliminating a “group of outdated discounting programs” from which the organizations benefited.
The statement continued, “YETI is unwavering in our belief in and commitment to the Constitution of the United States and its Second Amendment.”
But the damage had already been done, and NRA supporters had taken to destroying Yeti coolers in a variety of explosive ways.