By Dan Mitchell
Back in March, I explained that the coronavirus pandemic showed why it’s so valuable for people to have the right of gun ownership.
Let’s revisit the topic and we’ll start with the bad news. As illustrated by this Reason video, Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to exploit the crisis by imposing sweeping limits on our civil liberties guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.
The good news is that the Trump Administration has been working to make it easierfor people to exercise their right to gun ownership.
Licensed gun stores can do drive-thru sales of firearms or sell them out of their parking lots, the Trump administration said…in new guidance designed to facilitate purchases without forcing buyers to enter confined establishments during the coronavirus pandemic. …The only demand is that the required records from transactions still be stored safely inside the building. …Firearms sales have been one of the flashpoints of the crisis. A number of liberal jurisdictions have deemed gun stores to be “non-essential” businesses, which makes them subject to the same shutdown orders as shopping malls, theaters and hair salons. …Lawsuits have been filed against a number of those shutdown orders, arguing they violate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Gun owners say they can’t exercise that right if they can’t purchase a firearm or ammunition. Those complaints got a boost from the Homeland Security Department, which has issued guidance deeming firearms dealers essential.
And the best news is that many Americans have responded to the coronavirus by stocking up on weapons.
Here are some excerpts from a report by the U.K.-based BBC.
With the death toll climbing every day and most of the country under some form of lockdown, many Americans seem to be turning to guns as part of their response. …The FBI conducted 3.7m background checks in March 2020, the highest total since the instant background check programme began in 1998. …Gun shops across the country report that they are unable to re-stock shelves quickly enough to cope with the rush. …According to Georgia State University law school professor Timothy Lytton, …most new gun sales are being motivated by two factors that have been spurred on by the coronavirus crisis. The first is the concern that civil society – fire, police and health services – could be severely “eroded” someday, leading to a breakdown in law and order. In such a case, a gun can be viewed as a “self-help” survival tool, he says. The second reason is concerns over so-called big government infringing on American freedoms such as gun ownership, which is enshrined in the US constitution. “Many of the public health measures, such as shelter-in-place, restricting peoples’ movements, restricting what people can buy,” Mr Lytton says, “raises fears among many groups of the potential for government takeover and tyranny.”
Here’s a tweet from March showing long lines at a gun store.
A local TV station in the state of Washington reported on the surge in gun sales.
Local firearm stores have been all but emptied out. The response we got from several gun stores in numerous counties showed how overwhelmed they are with business. Many said they barely had time to take our call and compared the demand to that of toilet paper. …We heard from several employees of local gun shops who say it’s undeniable that the massive surge is attributed to people’s fear during this time. Jason Cazes, owner of Low Price Guns in Bellevue, says three weeks ago, the boom in business hit like a ton of bricks. …Cazes found himself flooded with new customers with an urgent request. “Hey I need a hand gun, I need a shot gun. All the sudden they’re interested in having something for protection,” he said. …”It’s a lot of first time buyers,” says Cazes
A newspaper in Pittsburgh reported on the same phenomenon.
After standing in line at a Pittsburgh-area sporting goods store for more than an hour, not knowing what he would say to the sales clerk, the self-described “liberal Democrat from New York City” bought a gun. …His purchase last week occurred during a nationwide rash of firearm sales to people who had never considered gun ownership until becoming rattled by concerns about COVID-19’s impact on America’s social infrastructure. …On Wednesday at Keystone Shooting Center in Mars, Butler County, owner Ty Eggemeyer said the percentage of customers buying their first gun was “extremely high.” “Most of what’s selling is for self-defense and protection,” he said. “Mostly handguns. Our home-defense shotguns, wiped out.”
Stephen Gutowski writes for the Washington Free Beacon about the potential political implications of expanded gun ownership.
Scott Kane went 38 years without ever touching a gun. That streak would have continued had it not been for the coronavirus. In March, fearful of the harassment his wife and child experienced over their Asian ancestry, Kane found himself in a California gun shop. His March 11 purchase of a 9mm would have been the end of the story, were it not for a political standoff over shutdown orders and background checks. Now Kane, a former supporter of gun-control measures and AR-15 bans, is frustrated by the arduous process that has denied his family a sense of security. The pandemic has made the soft-spoken software engineer an unlikely Second Amendment supporter. …Kane is not alone. An influx of new gun owners has the potential to permanently alter the politics surrounding guns in the United States. …Brian, a 40-year-old Floridian, used his savings to buy a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in March after being laid off—the experience changed his entire approach to Second Amendment issues. …Andrew, a federal contractor who, along with his wife, bought a Heckler & Koch VP9 on March 21 in Virginia, said the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature pursuing a package of gun-control laws this winter in the face of unprecedented opposition directly contributed to his purchase.
And Kira Davis, in a column for Red State, also suggests that the coronavirus has led to new-found appreciation for the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
My friend’s father owns a gun range near me and she said he’s seen a huge amount of liberals coming in to purchase weapons in recent weeks. How does he know they’re liberals? “They’re shocked to discover they can’t just walk out of the store with a gun.” …Not only are many liberals suddenly learning to love their Second Amendment rights, many of them are finding out that the gun control narrative in this country — as repeated loudly and often by Hollywood and the mainstream media — is a complete lie. …As a gun-owner who formerly abhorred the Second Amendment, …I find this whole situation fascinating. …There are a lot of people like me out there right now — first-timers and Second Amendment haters who feel like a hypocrite for wanting a gun for protection. …now they are navigating our convoluted gun laws for themselves… As these revelations begin to spread among our liberal brethren in the state of California, will we see a shift in gun laws and support for anti-Second Amendment legislators? Only time will tell
Aaron Tao, in an article published by the Foundation for Economic Education, summarizes the case for gun ownership.
In the United States, depending where you live, police response time ranges from nine minutes to over an hour. Right now, one in five New York police officers are currently out sick due to COVID-19. Police in multiple states have announced they will no longer respond to theft, burglary, and break-ins. Given the current climate, it’s not unreasonable to assume police will take much longer to arrive, if they do at all, should someone dial 911. Furthermore, Americans need to understand there is no legal obligation for the police to protect you, which is affirmed by the Supreme Court and multiple lower courts. (See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, Warren v. District of Columbia, and Lozito v. New York City). Should the police fail to arrive or protect you when needed, you can’t even sue for neglect. …Should an even deadlier natural or man-made catastrophe take place, if the authorities haven’t been incapacitated, displaced, or destroyed completely, whatever personnel and resources are left will be prioritized to protect high-ranking government officials, their inner-circle, and critical government facilities and infrastructure. …ruling elites will be evacuated to a secure bunker in some undisclosed location while John Q. Public will be left to fend for himself. …Many Americans, especially minorities, have realized the need for self-protection in times of social upheaval and breakdown. It is unfortunate that it took a tragedy as extreme as the COVID-19 pandemic to remind people that we should never take peace, prosperity, and freedom for granted. But millions have now taken the first steps to defend themselves and their loved ones.
I don’t pretend to know whether the new surge in gun ownership will change the political landscape, but I know it’s good news when more people learn about the issue. Especially folks on the left. Not only the ones mentioned in the stories above, but also these articles that I’ve shared.
- In 2012, I shared some important observations from Jeffrey Goldberg, a left-leaning writer for The Atlantic. In his column, he basically admitted his side was wrong about gun control.
- Then, in 2013, I wrote about a column by Justin Cronin in the New York Times. He self-identified as a liberal, but explained how real-world events have led him to become a supporter of private gun ownership.
- In 2015, I shared a column by Jamelle Bouie in Slate, who addressed the left’s fixation on trying to ban so-called assault weapons and explains that such policies are meaningless.
- In 2017, Leah Libresco wrote in the Washington Post that advocates of gun control are driven by emotion rather empirical research and evidence.
- Last but not least, in 2019, Alex Kingsbury confessed in the New York Times that his long-held dream of gun confiscation was utterly impractical.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a public policy economist in Washington. He’s been a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, an economist for Senator Bob Packwood and the Senate Finance Committee, and a Director of Tax and Budget Policy at Citizens for a Sound Economy. His articles can be found in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, and Washington Times. Mitchell holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. Original article can be viewed here.
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