I continue to be amazed at the tone-deaf response by gun control activists to the surge in demand for firearms from millions of Americans, including many first-time gun buyers. Around 2.5-million background checks for firearms were conducted in March, and based on what we’re hearing from gun store owners and employees across the country, many of those background checks were for people who’ve never owned a gun before.
A friend who works at a gun shop in Farmville, Virginia told me today that he estimates about 75% of customers over the past six weeks were there to buy their first gun, and many of them were older women who are purchasing a firearm for self-defense. These aren’t ladies who are picking up a gun to shoot the coronavirus, as gun control advocates have snarkily suggested. They’re concerned about a rise in violent crime, just like an increasing number of law enforcement officials, from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (yes, the same sheriff who tried to shut down gun stores) to prosecutors and sheriffs in Washington State. Not only is the coronavirus hitting police and sheriffs departments hard, reducing the number of personnel on the street, but thousands of inmates are being released from jails and prisons across the country in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus behind bars.
It’s entirely reasonable to want a gun for self-defense at the moment, and the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners of America, and many state-level Second Amendment organizations are fighting to ensure that Americans still have access to their rights during this state of emergency by filing lawsuits against elected officials who are ordering gun stores and ranges closed and, in some cases, putting a halt to the issuance of concealed carry licenses.
Enter Kris Brown, president of Brady, and former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzmann, who are accusing the NRA and other 2A groups of “playing with our lives” for daring to defend the right of self-defense in a national emergency. Writing in the New York Daily News, the pair claim that the very fact that there have been long lines at gun stores is evidence of the need to shut them down.
The NRA’s recently-filed federal lawsuit seeks to force the governor to allow gun stores to open. Never mind the crowded lines outside of gun stores that demonstrated why such orders were needed. Never mind that gun shoppers can get the disease or pass it on, creating a danger to the rest of the people in our state and further burdening our already overburdened health care system.
And never mind the danger that more guns in more hands pose in the pandemic. Take, for instance, the rising incidence of domestic violence. A gun in the home increases the risk of murder in these situations by as much as 500%, according to published data. The NRA even claims a constitutional basis for its quest for profits, asserting a right to sell and shop for guns in the midst of a rapidly spreading, deadly viral pandemic.
The fact that demand for firearms and ammunition is so high right now isn’t evidence of a need to close gun stores, which can practice the same social distancing measures as grocery stores and other essential businesses. In fact, the ATF just issued guidelines allowing gun shops to operate outdoors to further protect customers and employees. And despite the claims by the anti-gun groups, the NRA doesn’t profit off of gun sales.
More importantly, Brown and Holtzmann are absurdly wrong by asserting that there is no right to acquire a firearm in the midst of a rapidly spreading, deadly viral pandemic. Our right to keep and bear arms hasn’t disappeared, and the right to acquire a gun is an inherent part of that right. After all, how can you keep and bear something you’re not allowed to get?
The NRA’s real goal is to get courts to give the Second Amendment more favorable treatment than every other constitutional right so that public safety can’t stand in the way between gun manufacturers and their profits. Disturbingly, the Trump administration has tried to aid lawsuits like this one brought by its $30 million campaign contributor, the NRA. It has recommended that gun businesses be deemed “critical infrastructure,” an absurd position.
The NRA probably understands that public safety measures like Cuomo’s orders are constitutional, which is why it claims that New York’s broad ban on non-essential activities is “pretextual” or, in other words, a sham. That position is a flat out lie. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health experts have said that social distancing measures are critical to stop the spread of the virus, but according to the NRA, they are an “arbitrary” attack on Second Amendment rights.
This isn’t just a gross misreading of the NRA’s lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo over his executive order that’s led to the closure of gun stores, but an outright lie. The NRA is absolutely arguing that Cuomo’s order is unconstitutional, as the suit makes clear.
Defendants’ closure of firearms retailers is a cynical and pretextual attack on the Second Amendment rights of the people of New York. While New Yorkers cannot purchase firearms or ammunition to protect their families, Defendants and state officials readily classified, as “essential,” sales of goods such as liquor, pizza, coffee, donuts, and luxury condominiums. Yet, in the face of contrary federal guidance and ample constitutional authority, Governor Cuomo refuses to extend the same dispensation to firearm retailers.
Plaintiff appreciates the grave threat to health posed by COVID-19, and the societal disruption it has caused. However, history reminds us that incursions upon constitutional liberties which are rationalized in the midst of an emergency frequently linger longer, and do more harm, than the emergency itself. Reasonable steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus do not include the suspension of the Second Amendment. Plaintiff asks the Court to declare that the Second Amendment right to bear arms requires that citizens and residents of New York be afforded reasonable access to purchase firearms and ammunition, and to prohibit Defendants from needlessly forcing gun stores to remain closed.
The NRA’s goal with this lawsuit isn’t to make the Second Amendment more important than any other constitutionally-protected right, but simply to protect the Second Amendment. There are other organizations that can and should fight to ensure that the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and all other rights of Americans are also protected during the current state of emergency.
The Brady’s Brown and her anti-gun cohort also blatantly lie about the remedies that the NRA is seeking. They’re not asking for the right of gun stores to pack as many customers as possible into close quarters, but simply to remain open and practice the other social distancing measures that other essential businesses are putting into place. According to the anti-gun shills, however, anything that allows gun stores to continue to operate violates common sense and the social distancing rules in place in New York.
Apparently, the gun lobby just doesn’t care. While Americans are sacrificing to stop the spread, the gun industry won’t even pause its push for more sales. While Americans need to come together — and doctors and nurses are driving across the country to treat infected New Yorkers — the gun lobby is ginning up fear and division, spreading the message that society may break down, so Americans should stock up their arsenals and get ready for combat against each other.
The NRA lawsuit repeats that dystopian messaging, claiming that gun stores must be kept open because “many New Yorkers have valid concerns about the ability of the government to maintain order” despite the reality that crime is plummeting in New York.
Actually, New Yorkers are more concerned about whether there are sufficient ventilators, masks, personal protective equipment and hospital beds. Glocks aren’t high on that list of necessities.
This is just silly. We know for a fact that there were a record number of gun purchases across the country last month, and the number would have been even higher had gun stores not been ordered closed in states like New York. Long lines at gun stores in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon are pretty good indications that the urge to buy a firearm for self-defense isn’t a red state phenomenon. As for the plummeting crime rate in New York, that’s unquestionably a good thing, but even former NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton, who is himself a fan of more gun control laws, has expressed concern about the release of inmates on Rikers Island over coronavirus concerns, and says the state’s bail reform laws could spark a “second virus” of violent crime to go along with the coronavirus pandemic.
Gun control activists like Brown simply can’t accept or acknowledge the fact that it’s human nature to want to protect and defend yourself and your loved ones during uncertain times, and for a growing number of Americans, that includes having a firearm for self-defense. Not only are we staying six feet away from people and compulsively washing our hands to protect ourselves against an invisible enemy, we’re arming ourselves in case things get worse in this country. As for the idea that the NRA is engaging in dystopian fantasies, I don’t think anybody would call our current situation utopian, and things could very easily get worse before they get better. I don’t think we’re looking at the EOTWAWKI, but we could very well be in for some chaotic months ahead, particularly in parts of the country where the economy has taken a huge hit.
I suspect the lies of the gun control activists are ringing particularly hollow in the ears of most Americans right now. I also suspect that Brown and Holtzmann are aware that their argument isn’t a winning one. If your best argument depends on falsehoods instead of facts and spin over substance, you’ve already lost. I don’t know what the ultimate outcome of NRA v. Cuomo will be, but I do know that in the court of public opinion, the “don’t buy a firearm” stance taken by anti-gun organizations has already suffered a resounding defeat.