Not too long before the entire nation shut down due to COVID-19, gun stores started seeing a surge in sales. Many people who had never considered buying a gun in the first place decided maybe they should rethink it. Some were concerned about crime increasing due to the virus. Still others, Asian-Americans, were concerned ignorant morons would blame them for the disease. Still others had different concerns.
Regardless, gun sales soared and have been consistently high ever since.
Now, we know that many of these gun buyers went to gun stores, which means they’re required to undergo a background check and have any required permits before buying.
For some, that’s not enough. The increase in gun sales is somehow evidence that our gun laws are too lax.
Almost immediately after governors began to issue orders in early March directing nonessential businesses to close and individuals to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, news stories began to emerge of increased traffic at gun stores.1 One photo of a line of buyers outside of a California gun shop is likely to become one of the most recognizable images from this moment in modern American history.2 Anecdotes emerged of individuals who had never considered buying guns before rushing to gun stores to make their first purchase, motivated by the fear and uncertainty of this unprecedented moment. Since this early reporting, data have confirmed a dramatic increase in the number of guns purchased during the pandemic. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the federal agency responsible for conducting background checks for gun sales, revealed that nearly 2 million guns were sold in March—the second highest monthly number since these data have been tracked.3 April gun sales were nearly as high, with an estimated 1.6 million guns sold—a 71 percent increase over April 2019.4 The trend in gun sales continued in May and June; June saw the biggest increase yet, with an estimated 2.3 million guns sold.5
Just as the coronavirus pandemic has exposed gaps within the U.S. health care and economic systems, the surge in gun sales during this period brings to the forefront weaknesses in the current laws and systems governing the sale and ownership of firearms and ammunition. Far too many gun sales are allowed to proceed without background checks, and gun owners face minimal legal requirements to ensure that guns are handled and stored safely. These gaps in the law create risks for all U.S. communities vulnerable to gun violence, and both federal and state policymakers should take this opportunity to strengthen these laws to help reduce gun violence.
In addition, policymakers should use this moment to consider enacting a system of gun licensing that would address many gun law gaps at once, rather than through piecemeal legislation. Laws that require individuals to obtain a government-issued firearm license prior to purchasing a gun could minimize the risks associated with delays in the background check system, as well as require that all sales proceed only after a background check has been completed and the purchaser has completed a gun safety training class, which includes instruction on methods of safe storage. A comprehensive system of gun licensing, whether enacted at the federal level or by individual states, would alleviate many of the weaknesses in current gun laws that are being exacerbated by the pandemic.
Among the complaints is that the background check system couldn’t withstand the onslaught of so many requests, thus backing up to the point that many guns were released without completed background checks.
However, what we haven’t seen is any appreciable number of these guns going to criminals. Further, once those background checks come back, law enforcement either is or should be notified. Convicted felons attempting to buy guns is a criminal offense, after all. Actually buying one is as well.
At the end of the day, the real problem isn’t that the NICS wasn’t robust enough to handle the surge.
No, the problem was that millions of Americans decided to buy guns. They recognized that it was on them to protect themselves and now they wanted the means to do so.
And progressives don’t like that. In their mind, the state should be the sole provider of just about everything. That includes security.
A quick look at their list of supposed loopholes makes it quite clear that their problem is that people can buy guns. Period.
They advocate for things like licensing, waiting periods, and an end to the so-called “Charleston Loophole” which is nothing more than their desire to hold up your ability to buy a gun indefinitely for whatever reason.
I’m sorry, but the gun buying surge wasn’t an indication of a broken system, but proof that at the end of the day, Americans value the ability to protect themselves over most anything else.
And that’s what’s really the issue.