NEWTON, Mass. – The mission of The Liberal Gun Club is to provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports. Before Donald Trump was elected president, few people would have heard of the organization. Today, The Liberal Gun Club is the “cause celebre” in the rush by the national media and the blogosphere to report on all the Democratic voters now turning to prepping, and guns, as a way to protect themselves the face of the “Trumpocalypse.”
According to its website, the LGC serves “as a national forum for all people, irrespective of their personal political beliefs, to discuss firearms ownership, firearms use, and the enjoyment of firearms-related activities free from the destructive elements of political extremism that dominate this subject on the national scale. We also actively develop and foster a variety of programs for the purpose of firearms training and firearms safety education, for both gun owners and non-gun owners.”
And while many within the firearms and Survival Industry are concerned over an apparent slowing of sales because of the prepper market’s “relaxed” approach to preparedness since Republicans won the recent election, just as many business owners and industry watchers have reported brisk sales.
On Black Friday this past November, the McClatchy news service reported that the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check system processed a record 185,713 background checks — the most ever on a single day in the 20 years the system has existed. Nontraditional gun groups such as the LGC, Black Guns Matter and Pink Pistols, a group catering to homosexuals, all reported rapid growth in both memberships and participants interested in gun ownership and firearms training.
The news service also reported that gun shop owner Michael Cargill told NBC News that gun classes at his Austin, Texas store are selling out. He’s noticed an increase in LGBTQ, African-American, Hispanic and Muslim customers. Store owners told NBC they’ve seen up to four times as many minority customers than is typical.
Lara Smith, Liberal Gun Club: We don’t know because those numbers are very hard to come by. The industry has done a good job of making sure liberals don’t feel comfortable identifying themselves. Having said that 1/4 to 1/3 of liberals identify themselves as gun owners.
PBN: How much growth has the Liberal Gun Club experienced since election day?
Smith: Well over 10 percent.
PBN: What is it specifically that “liberals” fear from a Trump presidency that is causing them to purchase guns, survival gear and seeking new skills? Is it personal attacks (attacks on minorities or LGBTQ, etc.), economic catastrophe, geopolitical disruptions, civil war, race war…?
Smith: Before the past two weeks, it was mainly hate crimes. Now, it’s the instability Trump is creating in the country and the world. There is suddenly a significant uptick in the number of liberals realizing that we may, in fact, have a tyrannical government on our hands and the Second Amendment protects them too.
PBN: Do you notice any areas in their knowledge that is lacking/opportunities to grow in their preparedness? And what are their strengths? (One might assume an affinity with more natural living…but that is stereotypical.)
Smith: I am not a prepper so I don’t know. Our organization sees liberals moving to their strengths – willingness to learn. They are taking classes and learning to shoot.
PBN: In your organization’s experience with the survival industry, bloggers, retailers (i.e. camping, tactical) and manufacturers, are those businesses missing something or improperly focused on “the wrong things” in regards to this new market? Where can the businesses and advice givers improve their marketing communications?
Smith: SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting Outdoor Trade show) was eye-opening. There is a clear divide. Part of the industry is thrilled to talk with us and realizes that when Hillary lost, they needed a new marketing strategy. The other part of the industry couldn’t care less, and will continue to play to the conservative base. They really don’t want liberals involved in this world at all.
PBN: What are the Survival Industry’s growth opportunities and challenges in this area?
Smith: Stop marketing to fear of the other, and start marketing about how their products are actually helpful.
PBN: Should liberal preppers ignore patently conservative partisan opinions when reading or purchasing from survival businesses if those businesses are helpful for long term goals? Should the other person’s politics mean anything if they are providing critical information or products?
Smith: Because most of the companies that are partisan have said really horrific things about liberals, why should our money go there? There are plenty of businesses that provide great products and info that are neutral or positive about having liberal customers.
PBN: Do you see Left-leaning politics changing because of this phenomenon? For instance, if millions of liberals now carry guns, does the Democratic Party appropriate new positions on gun control? Will this new political world change a person’s opinions regarding the purchase of guns in any way: will they fight a waiting period? Will they become more open to the AR rifle? Etc.
Smith: Yes. The Democratic Party does not speak for liberals on this issue. They have lost their way. They very much need to rethink their positions. Liberals are slowly but surely catching on to the problems with all these policies; that they don’t make anyone safer and are actually racist (because current laws and proposals make it more difficult for African-Americans to legally purchase guns). At the same time, the National Rifle Association doesn’t speak for us either. The NRA has to understand the D.C. v. Heller case (which gave Washington, D.C. residents the right to own and carry a gun in their own home) does have very real limitations. And stop lauding Trump. As an organization, we’re hopeful we will see a move away from scare tactics on both sides and towards actual root cause mitigation.