Make no mistake; the decision is up to governors on a state-by-state basis, and Gov. Jay Inslee has not yet deemed gun shops essential to the survival of Washingtonians. But that is not for a lack of trying from supporters of gun rights. State Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, wrote a letter signed by 46 Republican legislators urging the governor to open gun shops. “Some things don’t stop because of C-19 and unfortunately one of those is crime,” Wilson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Gov. Inslee can’t assume criminals will honor his stay-at-home order.”
True. But we can assume that having more guns in public will lead to more deaths. The United States has by far the most civilian-owned firearms of any country in the world, with 120 for every 100 citizens, according to Small Arms Survey. We also have, by far, the most homicides by firearm among developed nations, with a rate about 20 times that of Australia.
That is not a coincidence; the correlation extends to individual states, where higher gun-ownership rates equal higher rates of gun deaths. As German Lopez explains for Vox.com: “The logic is straightforward: People all over the world, since the beginning of time, have gotten into arguments, feuds and fights. When there’s a gun around, though, it’s simply much easier for those fights to escalate into deadly violence.” It’s also much easier for somebody who is despondent and considering suicide to act on their most drastic impulse.
There is nothing surprising about the Trump administration capitulating to activists in declaring gun shops essential. Trump ran for office as a gun-rights supporter and he won by minus-3 million votes. He is pandering to his base, which is what all politicians do to one extent or another.
But the fact that so many Americans respond to a crisis by running to the local gun store is an indictment of our society. It is a representation of how Americans are particularly motivated and influenced by fear, and how the gun lobby has feasted on that fear for decades. What once was a self-confident nation now is paralyzed by angst about immigrants and anxiety about bad guys and concern about a pandemic, rather than being driven by a triumphant belief in our ability to handle a crisis.
So, many Americans consider gun shops to be essential — although the guess here is that most people who believe that already have a small arsenal in their home.
Someday, eventually, the coronavirus will pass and a vaccine will render it a relatively harmless annoyance. And someday, hopefully, we will reevaluate what truly is essential to American life.