Good morning, Bulletin readers. Research shows that guns make a home less safe, not more. But after decades of messaging by the gun industry and its lobbying groups depicting firearms as essential for protection, there’s continuing evidence that the coronavirus is leading to a new boom in gun sales. Your Monday briefing continues below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Pandemic fears continue to fuel a surge in gun and ammo purchases. The Los Angeles Times and USA Today spoke with buyers in California, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin worried about a mix of perceived threats, from looters to firearm supply shortages to new government restrictions. “I have a house and a family, and they’ll need protection if things get worse,” one first-time buyer told the Times. Photos showed long lines outside dealers, and the online retailer Ammo.com told both papers that its sales are up nearly 70 percent. We won’t have harder numbers on how the coronavirus crisis is boosting the gun business until the federal gun background check numbers for March are released early next month. Previously, The Trace’s Champe Barton reported on a first wave of virus-related gun stockpiling, led primarily by Asian-Americans in early COVID-19 hotspots who dreaded a xenophobic backlash because of the outbreak’s origins in China.
The NRA stirs a panic over one city’s emergency powers. To prepare to stop the spread of the coronavirus in their community, the City Council in Champaign, Illinois, passed an ordinance on Friday that activated long-established emergency powers, which include the authority to halt gun sales and seize property. The National Rifle Association responded by blasting out a “national alert” to its followers, warning that “anti-gun extremists and elected officials” had begun to use the pandemic “to quietly pass and implement gun control schemes.” Champaign’s mayor was forced to clarify that the city has not implemented a gun ban.
Where nonessential government services include concealed carry license applications and renewals. In West Virginia, the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office is suspending its concealed gun permitting process “out of an abundance of caution.” A source in the Sheriff’s Office told the gun blog Bearing Arms that the office that processes the applications does not allow for applicants to practice social distancing. The sheriff in Belmont County, Ohio, has also suspended appointments for concealed carry applications, as well as background checks.
Biden uses Sanders’s gun record to deflect attacks. In a two-hour back-and-forth that was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, the former vice president parried Sanders’s criticism of his record by highlighting the Vermont senator’s initial opposition to the Brady background check bill and his past support for the 2005 federal law that protects gun dealers and sellers from most lawsuits.
The New York Times profiled a Christchurch shooting survivor who nearly died saving his son’s life. Zulfirman Syah has been plagued by anguish at his 3-year-old son’s psychological trauma, physical pain resulting from multiple bullet wounds, and frustration with “a health care system that has never seen so many gunshot wounds,” the Times’s Damien Cave writes. Syah and his family’s “searing experience points to forces the world has yet to contain: guns, technology, and white supremacy.”
Police in Washington, D.C., have issued more than 4,800 concealed gun permits since 2017, when a U.S. District Court ruled that the Police Department must relax its standards. Before the order, only 123 residents had one. — The Washington Post