Though the NRA's power, even before Newtown, was sinking, American gun culture remains ascendant, with 74 percent of Americans – the highest percentage ever recorded – opposed to banning handguns, and 51 percent supportive of allowing assault-style weapons, according to a recent poll by the libertarian Reason Foundation.
The gun as icon of freedom
And folks don't just want their guns for self-defense. In early February, Pew noted that 53 percent of Americans say the federal government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms – a nod in part, experts say, to the post-Newtown gun-control push and fears that Democrats are laying a covert path to gun confiscation.
That dynamic of "tying guns to the identity of the country sort of becomes a way to avoid debating who we are and what we will do as a society, and how we will deal with certain kinds of problems," says Carole Emberton, a historian at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
Nevertheless, as 44 percent of American households now stash firearms, the stereotype of gun owners as camo-wearing rednecks in pickup trucks is being challenged in new ways, especially given the 8 million Americans – many of them women – carrying concealed weapons, and the gun-rights groups emerging with names like The Liberal Gun Club and the Black Man With a Gun blog.