“Municipalities who target lawful gun stores for closure aren’t promoting safety—by weaponizing their politics to disarm you and your loved ones, these shameless partisans are recklessly promoting a gun-control agenda that suffocates your self-defense rights when you need them most.” –Jason Ouimet, the NRA-ILA’s executive director
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before,” said Rahm Emanuel, then White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama (D), to the Wall Street Journal during the financial crisis of 2008.
This same foul flavor of political opportunism is now being pushed by officials in a few blue states, cities and counties as they try to use the coronavirus as an excuse to shut down gun stores. They see the pandemic as an opportunity that can’t be wasted. They want to stop gun sales to disenfranchise the many citizens who, in this uncertain time, would like to prepare themselves for a worst-case scenario.
And there are a lot of new gun owners all of a sudden. The number of background checks called into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in March was 80.4% higher than March 2019’s 1,317,114 NICS checks, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) adjusted-NICS numbers.
“The figures are simply eye-popping,” says Mark Oliva, director, public affairs for the NSSF. “Retailers have been telling us that the overwhelming majority of those buying firearms over the last month have been first-time gun owners.”
Buying guns during a national crisis is hardly an irrational thing for these citizens to do.
Many police officers and other first-responders have, after all, contracted the coronavirus.
TIME magazine reported that “more than 160” New Jersey police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus; in fact, Acting New Jersey State Police Supt. Col. Patrick Callahan said that more than 700 officers have been quarantined at home.
In New York City, The Sun reported that almost “5,000 cops are currently out sick as the coronavirus crisis continues to ravage New York with fears looming of disorder on the streets.”
In Detroit, the Associated Press reported that more “than a fifth of Detroit’s police force is quarantined; two officers have died from coronavirus and at least 39 have tested positive, including the chief of police.”
Many cities and states have also released prisoners to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in crowded jails.
Meanwhile, officials in some cities, such as in Baltimore and Chicago, have advised their police departments not to arrest people for nonviolent crimes.
Steve Casstevens, the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told ABC News that police departments are changing the way they respond to calls for assistance all over the U.S. This could lead to slower response times to 911 calls as police departments are overwhelmed and understaffed—they have a difficult and critical job to do even as they are also being impacted by this virus.
Clearly, taking smart precautions, such as being prepared to defend yourself at a time when police departments are spread thin, is a rational thing to do.
This isn’t a criticism of any police officer or department. It is just an acknowledgement that, until help arrives, we are our own first responders.
Unfortunately, this is something some politicians have been trying to curtail, in some places successfully. For a state-by-state guide of where gun stores are being closed to and read about all the NRA is doing to reopen them, go to nraila.org/coronavirus.