The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the United Stated prompted increased sales of all types of arms, even leading to queues outside some shops. Many of the buyers say they need to feel safe during the lockdown, which is forcing them to stay at home, sometimes alone. The demand for weapons has been largely non-specific. Customers want almost any type of weapon they can use to defend themselves; this in itself is unusual because, typically, people who buy arms have a specific kind of weapon in mind.
The first days of the pandemic in the US quickly led to cases of deaths by firearm involving suicides or issues related to the social distancing rules implemented to curb the coronavirus. In Detroit, for example, armed demonstrators protested against the stay-at-home order and the closure of gun shops.
Faced with the need to decide which businesses could remain open, the vast majority of governors opted to categorise gun shops as suppliers of essential products, basic necessities, and as such, have been allowed to continue trading as usual. Only five states categorised gun shops as non-essential businesses, forcing them to close as a result: New York, New Mexico, Washington, Massachusetts and Michigan. To comply with social distancing rules, federally-licensed vendors can even sell guns on the street or to customers in their cars. It is worth noting that in Virginia, while not forcing gun stores to close due to lockdown, they have recently passed a law limiting the sale and possession of firearms.
The National Rifle Association, which has been in dire financial straits for some time due to costly internal battles, among other things, and laid off staff immediately before the pandemic arrived is actively fighting the governors who have forced gun shops to close. It has even gone as far as to sue, as a minimum, the governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts.
Research on the subject is unequivocal:
- People are more likely to sustain injuries after threatening the attackers with a gun than if they call the police or run away.
- Having a firearm in the home increases the chance that members of that household will be injured or killed.
- Only one in every 40 firearm homicides are a legitimate act of self-defence.
- The more firearms in circulation, the more accidental shootings and homicides.
As a result, it seems evident that the increased number of weapons in homes during the lockdown increases the chance of domestic conflicts becoming life-threatening situations. As journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer concludes in a recently published article: “The more guns we have, and the closer we keep them to us, the more danger we will be in during this pandemic”. By contrast, in a country where public opinion considers the possession of a weapon a fundamental right, guaranteed by the second amendment of the Constitution, only a few governors have dared to face the uproar that can be caused by the closure of gun shops.