Guns and COVID-19: ‘Your Toilet Paper or Your Life’

Murphy

Citizens have the right to own a firearm in the United States, so why are gun shops closed?

Or in other words, why aren’t they considered an essential service?

That would make them exempt from the governor’s coronavirus-related edict shutting all but essential businesses in New Jersey.

Phil Murphy was asked about that at Monday’s briefing.

While any debate about gun rights tends to be passionate, and at times divisive, the governor avoided a rhetorical response, saying only that his position was conceived in consultation with the Attorney General and the head of the state police.

He could have asked how a gun is going to stop the virus from spreading, but he played it straight.

Here’s the back story.

There were a number of news reports last week about increased business at gun stores.

Full disclosure: I have never owned a gun and have no plans to change that. That is probably why I can’t understand why a contagious disease sends someone to the neighborhood gun shop.

Clearly, there is a disconnect in thinking between those who like having firearms and those who don’t.

The governor seems to be in the latter group.

Personal preferences aside, why exactly does a contagious disease increase gun sales?

The presumed belief is that if the virus speads and spreads and spreads, the normal bounds of society will vanish. And as riots and mayhem ensue, a firearm will be needed to protect oneself and one’s
family.

This apocalyptic vision, of course, is more likely to surface in the movies than in real life.

It’s going to take quite a lot before a hooded intruder breaks into your home to declare, “Your toilet paper or your life?”

In fact, officials have noted – at least anecdotally – that traditional crime tends to decrease when so many people are at home.

Speaking of crime, the state announed another action today that seems destined to draw criticism from some on the right.

That would be plans to release at least some county jail inmates to prevent the virus from spreading. Keep in mind that if it spreads widely, it would impact correction officers as well as inmates.

The pertinent point here is that those serving time in county jails are guilty of minor offenses by definition. They generally include shoplifting, repeated traffic violations or simple assaut. Sentences
are 364 days or less.

Nor is this a blanket release. Gurbir Grewal, the state’s Attorney General, said inmates only would be released if the relevant county prosecutor agrees.

Politics never truly ends. But during a crisis, purely political criticism is muted – even if just a bit.

However, one should not be surprised if Murphy’s policies on gun shops and inmate release rouses some Republicans.

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