Commentary: Unless you plan to shoot the viruses one by one, gun shops aren't essential services
AP

Commentary: Unless you plan to shoot the viruses one by one, gun shops aren't essential services

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}
A line at the Martin B. Retting gun store in Culver City, Calif., on Sunday, March 15, 2020 extends out the door and around the corner.

A line at the Martin B. Retting gun store in Culver City, Calif., on Sunday, March 15, 2020 extends out the door and around the corner. (Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times/TNS)

We're in the midst of a pandemic, with residents in many states around the country - including California - under orders to remain at home except for essential trips to essential businesses.

A run to the drugstore for a prescription is still allowed, for obvious reasons. So is going the grocery store to stock up on food.

But how about a quick trip to the nearest gun shop for a new .38 and some ammo? Should that be allowed when we're all being told to stay home?

Well, according to gun advocates - including, naturally, the National Rifle Association - it should be. They are pushing for shutdown order exemptions for gun shops, arguing that they provide an essential service during a pandemic.

That's ludicrous. Unless you plan on shooting those little coronaviruses one by one, no, gun shops are not providing an essential service during a pandemic. They are profiting from the marketing of fear - get armed now before the desperate hordes invade your neighborhood in search of toilet paper!

There is confusion over this issue, as a result of how these different decrees have been framed and delivered in different states. The Trace, a nonprofit news site devoted to covering gun violence, is keeping track state by state.

Here in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order exempted a range of operations from the shutdown order, but that list didn't include gun shops. Yet absent a specific order to shut their doors, some have stayed open.

Over the last few days, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva began ordering gun shops to close, deeming them nonessential under the stay-at-home order. But then he said the "county's top lawyer" advised that such shops could remain open, so he gave up and said it was up to Newsom's office to say yay or nay on the gun shops.

The governor needs to say nay, and soon.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller case that the Second Amendment protects the right of an individual to own a firearm in the home for self-protection. It was an atrocious decision that ran contrary to decades of jurisprudence, but as long as that's the current standard, we're stuck with it.

But that doesn't mean that individuals have the right to buy any gun or ammunition at any time they want. In fact, in the Heller decision, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the government has a legitimate interest in regulating the sales of firearms and that "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

And ordering gun shops closed along with most other businesses clearly falls under that authority to impose conditions on the sale of weapons.

Other issues here are more problematic. Since the onset of this pandemic, gun shops have been doing big business. According to several news reports, some Asian Americans, fearing racist attacks after the outbreak began in China, began arming themselves. Then other individuals fearing the breakdown of social order began lining up. And those who already had guns (and in some cases arsenals), began buying more guns and ammunition.

Are those the rational responses to the spread of a virus? No. They are functions of fear. Understandable fear, to be sure. This virus is a scary threat to humans, and as a society we were woefully ill-prepared for it. We're still scrambling to catch up, and it's unclear whether we will.

But more of us buying guns or expanding personal armories is not a rational response to a medical emergency. It is caving in to dark thoughts and expectations, and it moves the needle on our collective safety a little further down the "dangerous" part of the scale.

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Scott Martelle, who joined the Los Angeles Times editorial board in 2014, is a veteran journalist and author of six history books.

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

0
0
0
0
0

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, my fellow economists have reached deep into their bare cupboards of old ideas, and what have they found? Models that do not work: bailouts for big companies. Tax cuts for people well-off enough to owe taxes. Cash-grant schemes, a favorite of the universal income crowd. These tactics won't be effective. We cannot predict how bad the economic situation will get. ...

  • Updated

Nikki Haley took to Twitter on Thursday to complain about a few items in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that the Senate passed Wednesday and the House passed Friday. She could have objected to the White House's reluctance to spend $1 billion on life-saving ventilators, but that would have put her in President Donald Trump's Twitter crosshairs. She commendably stepped down from the board of ...

  • Updated

Remember the good ol' days - six months ago - when a Democratic presidential candidate with the adorable catchphrase "I have a plan for that," was surging in the polls? The most endearing part was that her catchphrase wasn't just empty sloganeering. She did have plans. Big ones. Plans underpinned by a righteous moral center. Intellectually, she was heads above the rest of the field. In less ...

  • Updated

Even as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States keeps rising sharply, President Donald Trump continues to express confidence. He has gone from optimism in the face of the imminent threat of the coronavirus to suggesting that the pandemic will abate soon and the U.S. economy will be "raring to go" by Easter. Trump's optimism stands in sharp contrast to the recommendations ...

China's announcement on March 17 that it will expel at least 13 American journalists with the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal will hurt China more than it will punish the United States. But it's not good for anyone. China called the move retaliation for a recent U.S. order sharply limiting the number of Chinese journalists in the U.S. But Beijing's decision is also ...

Until the past week or so, I've rarely thought of myself as old, at least not in the diminishing way the word is often used. I work a full-time job, walk 5 miles a day, go to the gym, teach yoga to young theater students and climb three flights of stairs to my condo several times a day. I never kid myself that age is only in the mind - the mirror won't allow that delusion - but I don't feel ...

It's OK to be scared. It's OK to be confused, anxious, angry, lonely. Whatever emotion you're feeling in this coronavirus craziness, it's OK. Try not to dwell in the worst of it, try not to feed it, try not to take it out on other people. But don't feel guilty for feeling what you feel. That's some of the best advice I've heard for this surreal moment in which a tiny virus has shut down the ...

The census is a constitutionally mandated process that has occurred since 1790. It has been administered during a world war, earthquakes, the Great Depression - and now a pandemic. The coronavirus presents a particular challenge to the 2020 census - which kicked off earlier this month - because human transmission of the virus has prompted public health officials to discourage public gatherings ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News