People are feeling more self-sufficient these days. When it comes to self-defense, that’s a good thing.
By the looks of the baking aisle in the grocery stores, we are baking more from scratch. In states whose governors haven’t determined vegetable seeds to be nonessential, more people are planting gardens to improve their sense of food security. People who had not considered sewing before this pandemic have now taken to making masks for their families, strangers, and for profit.
Being more self-sufficient is a good thing. It taps into the American spirit, and the can-do attitudes exemplified by Rosie the Riveter, the moon landing, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team. And when something like the coronavirus pandemic happens, or any other regional or natural disaster, people can feel less panicked and more secure due to their preparation.
Part of the move toward self-sufficiency involves people taking more responsibility for their own safety and that of their loved ones. Some families are choosing to buy a firearm for self-defense. The federal government has called gun stores, gun manufacturers, and shooting ranges “essential services.”
At the same time, numerous states and counties are releasing prisoners, purportedly to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus within the facilities. To be sure, some of these prisoners have never had violent convictions. However, other released prisoners were convicted of violent crimes — and that is a legitimate safety concern.
Last month, more than 3.7 million firearm background checks were processed through the FBI’s instant background check system, the largest number since the FBI began keeping such records in 1998. Gun stores are reporting anecdotal estimates of between 50% to 90% of gun purchases are to first-time firearm owners, depending on the state. Many of these new firearm owners are realizing for the first time how difficult the process is to buy a gun in their time of need.
Should we be nervous about all these new gun owners, or should they be cheered on?
First, these new gun owners have a moral responsibility to get trained immediately. With gun ranges deemed essential services, there is no excuse not to get the safety training that every gun owner must have. Zero firearm accidents is the only acceptable goal, and those millions of new gun owners must not add to the numbers.
Ordinary citizens who hold concealed carry permits are among the most law-abiding of populations, even more law-abiding than law enforcement. A 2010 study by Police Quarterly demonstrated this comparison, a fact that continues to be replicated in subsequent studies. Instead of being nervous or concerned about the surge in new gun owners, we should see them as adding to the ranks of law-abiding citizens who are now more prepared to protect their families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 500,000 and 2 million citizens each year, who are not members of the law enforcement community, defend themselves or their families with a firearm. These incidents may involve the discharge of a firearm, the display of a firearm, or even the mention of the intended victim having a firearm.
A question that won’t be answered for months or years to come is this: How will this surge in new gun owners affect the electorate?
Consider the stories of people in California who decided to buy their first firearm. They took a trip to a gun store, greeted by lines around the block to get in. Once inside, they were guided to the purchase that was best for their family’s situation. Then they found out that there is a 10-day waiting period for them to be able to take their purchase home. And so many were not aware of the waiting period because it was a law that didn’t, until that moment, apply to them.
Maybe new gun owners will look more closely at the gun rights policies of the candidates on future ballots. Some might even stop supporting pro-gun control politicians.