Integral to the president's push for "common sense" gun controls, then, is engaging an emergent breed of centrist, gun-friendly Americans on the fence about whether new controls will effectively thwart violence – or prove a political Trojan horse to disarm lawful gun owners.
Judging by the White House use of the term "gun safety" instead of "gun control," and given the release in early February of a striking picture of Mr. Obama blasting away with a shotgun at a skeet range, it's clear to many gun-policy experts that this misunderstood majority of gun owners and sympathizers may, indeed, hold the key to plugging the collective safety loopholes in state and federal gun laws.
In fact, gun culture experts contend, gun owners are increasingly folks like Parker Russell, a Smart Car-driving cellphone store manager in Decatur, Ga.; Paul and Bekalyn Craig, a young married couple with two little kids in suburban Canton, Ga.; and Melvin Clark Jr., an African-American firearms instructor in Boston who says 90 percent of those now taking his concealed-carry classes are touching a gun for the first time – the highest number he's seen in his years of teaching gun safety.
As people have moved away from rural areas, it seems "we should have less gun ownership and less gun culture," says Jennifer Carlson, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto who is working on a book tentatively titled "Clinging to Their Guns? The New Politics of Gun Carry in Everyday Life."