As Americans shelter in place to flatten the curve of coronavirus, the NRA is fear mongering about the pandemic to sow division and sell guns. Last Friday, the NRA released a video urging Americans to buy guns to protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic, saying, “You might be stockpiling up on food right now to get through this current crisis. But if you aren’t preparing to defend your property when everything goes wrong, you’re really just stockpiling for somebody else.”
The NRA’s suggestion that Americans should stockpile firearms during this pandemic is rooted in the organization’s desire to line the pockets of gun manufacturers. More guns don’t mean more safety: If more guns made Americans safe, then we’d be the safest nation in the world––but America’s homicide rate is 25 times than that of other high-income countries.
Two incidents reported on Friday, the same day the video was released, underline the dangers of the NRA’s rhetoric. In New Mexico, a man allegedly unintentionally shot and killed his 13-year-old cousin with a gun he was carrying “for protection amidst the [coronavirus] scare.” And in Maine, a man was arrested and charged with “being a convicted felon in possession of firearms” after claiming “he needed guns to protect himself during the coronavirus outbreak.”
- “You might be wondering why I’m holding this [gun]. I know from history how quickly society breaks down during a crisis––and we’ve never faced anything like this before.”
- “Even liberals in California are lining up [to buy guns] because they know the government will not be able to protect them.”
- “Here’s something for you to think about: you might be stockpiling up on food right now to get through this current crisis. But if you aren’t preparing to defend your property when everything goes wrong, you’re really just stockpiling for somebody else.”
- “In a dangerous world, the 2nd Amendment is often all we have.”
The NRA’s argument that buying guns is the only way to stay safe during this crisis is patently false. In fact, statistics show the truth is just the opposite:
- Domestic Violence: Experts are concerned about domestic violence during the pandemic, and women are five times more likely to be shot and killed by an abusive partner when a gun is present during an incident of domestic violence;
- Suicide risk: Experts are concerned about increased suicide risk during the pandemic, and access to a gun triples the risk of death by suicide;
- Unintentional shootings: Unintentional shootings like the tragedy in New Mexico described above are more likely in a time when Americans are staying home and gun sales are reportedly on the rise. In fact, nearly 77 percent of unintentional shootings by children take place inside the home.
The NRA has a long history of using fear-mongering during disasters. In 2013, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre stoked fear about the need to be armed to ward off “hurricanes, tornadoes, riots, terrorists, gangs and lone criminals.” In 2016, NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom––the “Official Journal of the NRA”— published an op-ed that described an “absolute breakdown in societal order” in which “roving hordes are free to loot, burn and murder.” And after Hurricane Harvey, the gun lobby used the tragedy to loosen gun laws in Texas.
Earlier this month, the NRA cancelled its annual convention due to concerns about coronavirus––but several NRA board members and associates have nonetheless used the pandemic to further racist narratives about coronavirus, spread conspiracy theories, and dismiss the seriousness of the virus.
With gun sales reportedly on the rise, it’s important to remember that common-sense gun laws and a culture of gun safety go hand-in-hand with responsible gun ownership. Just as parents are taking precautions to prevent their families from becoming exposed to the virus, it’s crucial they take precautions within the home too—namely, keeping firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Helpful resources for responsible gun ownership can be found here.