THE MILLENNIAL FACE OF THE NRA
Hunter Michielson, 19, is a proud card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association
He’s also an anomaly.
Pew Research Center data shows that gun owners who are in Michielson’s age group, are the smallest proportion of gun owners in the United States. And though Michielson is a staunch supporter for the right to bear arms, he says he has never discharged a firearm, does not own a gun and is in no hurry to purchase one.
“My involvement is more symbolic,” he said. “It’s to show that I support the actions of the organization, which I think unfairly gets a lot of flack, especially from the media.”
Michielson, who just completed his sophomore year at Duke University, said that there is a problematic stereotype that NRA members are uneducated and unsophisticated “rednecks” who do not have compelling reasons for wanting to buy and carry guns, and this is a perception that he wants to change.
“I’m sure there are some people in the NRA who fit that description, and I’m sure there are scores of people who don’t,” he said. “I know that there are a lot of people like me who believe in these things not just for these knee-jerk reasons, but either are too afraid to talk about them or just simply don’t.”
The NRA does not release demographic data on its 5 million members, however research suggests that that the oldest lobby in the United States may have a millennial problem going forward. According to a study by Harvard University 84 percent of millennials are in favor of stricter gun control laws or believe the current gun control laws are fine as they are, while only 12 percent support looser laws, and only 38 percent have a favorable view of the NRA nationwide.
Thomas Irons is a rising senior at Duke who also supports the Second Amendment, however he said that is not something he necessarily broadcasts.
“I definitely think that I am in the minority. I’m not super outgoing with my beliefs, but I think there’s a healthy minority.”
Michielson echoed this sentiment and said he believes that he is the only card-carrying member on campus.
“I know I hold an unpopular opinion, he said. “I don’t think the campus is 100 percent welcoming to my point of view.”
Although his family did not own guns growing up, Michielson decided to officially join the NRA earlier this year. For him, guns represent the right that Americans have to protect themselves and their loved ones from others who want to hurt them and potentially governments that want to hurt them.
“We are kidding ourselves if we actually think that democracies cannot become usurpacious and tyrannical,” he said. “Our own ancestors in Europe saw that the outcome of that in a very bad way.”
Michielson cited the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II when a Jewish community used guns to delay being uprooted by Nazis for up to a month as evidence of his claim. Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League have spoken out against using the Holocaust in gun control debates calling it a “false comparison.”
Although the NRA website says that the organization opposes new background check legislation, both Irons and Micheilson said that they are supportive of more rigorous background checks.
“Amplifying background checks is something that needs to happen,” Irons said. “I definitely remember going through one in the past and I think there are good reasons to look at who is buying them and for what purposes.”
The students also agreed that they do not necessarily want to change the minds of their peers — they just want to have their opinion respected.
“I think most people who would stop and talk to me about my position would not necessarily agree with me, but at least agree that I am not a stupid person, and I hold beliefs that are grounded in a lot of thought,” Michielson said.