Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at Firearms Policy Coalition. You can connect with him on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.

This Week in Gun Rights: Mar 21, 2020

More gun laws and assorted nonsense in Maryland, Ammo-pocalypse now: pandemic sales ravaging ammo market, Local governments subverting rights for “safety”, Pennsylvania background check system crashes.


More gun laws and assorted nonsense in Maryland

    At a press conference this week, Baltimore Mayor Jack Young begged criminals to stop shooting people and comply with self-quarantine instructions in order to free up hospital beds for COVID19-infected individuals with compromised immune systems. Mayor Young’s speech followed a gun-related incident where multiple individuals were injured, which isn’t uncommon in Baltimore, a city that had 348 homicides just last year. By the way, it’s unclear whether the shooting victims were actually hit by the police officer who responded to the incident. 

    What would compel Mayor Young to beg criminals to not engage in criminal activity? Is it desperation? It’s apparent that Baltimore’s problem preceded the Corona Virus pandemic; despite strict gun control laws, bad actors continue to harm others. Just this week Maryland passed yet another gun control measure, this time requiring anybody transferring a long gun to do so via an FFL with attendant fee. If these gun control measures are so effective, why aren’t they reducing Baltimore’s violent crime rate? Do the political elite of Maryland not appreciate the irony of the situation? 

    If the Maryland Legislature really wants to address Baltimore’s violent crime problem, it should start by reconsidering its draconian stance on things like drug prohibition. The confluence of these factors is what drives people to engage in criminal activity that inherently requires violence, and these issues could easily be addressed.


Ammo-pocalypse now: pandemic sales ravaging ammo market

    Crises remind us that the world is not a safe place, and the current pandemic is no different. As the markets continue to plummet, companies are laying off more employees, meaning there are people out there who, despite their best efforts, are no longer able to support themselves financially. And when people get desperate, they are more willing to do what they think is necessary to feed their families and themselves. While many firearms enthusiasts have maintained their preparedness for these scenarios, most people haven’t thought that far ahead. As a result, they’ve been flocking to gun shops and outfitters seeking ammunition. In fact, reports that it has seen a 276% increase in ammunition sales over the last week. Shelves are being wiped clean of ammunition, and some companies are rationing purchases.

    So what’s the ground truth? Well, nobody knows how long the pandemic will last, and nobody really knows what the ultimate impact will be on the economy or how long it will take to recover. The uncertainty is driving a lot of panic buying, whether it be groceries, guns, or toilet roll. Is this reaction irrational? Only time will tell, but let it serve as a reminder for next time – preparedness is next to Godliness, and a reloading press even closer.

Local governments subverting rights for “safety” 

    Guns are flying off the shelves across America as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For gun owners who have lived through things like the federal assault weapons ban, 9/11, and 2016, this is nothing new. Whenever there is fear, uncertainty, or a pending prohibition, there are firearms purchases. At the end of the day, people want to feel like they can protect themselves, even people who would otherwise oppose gun ownership. Watching the surge in firearms purchases must have made anti-gun politicians nervous (it certainly upset Moms), because now they are actively working to prevent gun purchases as this situation continues to evolve.

    The most high-profile case of police power abuse comes from San Jose, California (quelle surprise), where Mayor Sam Liccardo forced the closure of a local gun shop after declaring that gun shops were “non-essential” businesses. For context, Mayor Liccardo is the same legally-illiterate guy who thinks that gun owners should be forced to pay for “liability insurance” to offset societal costs caused by actual criminals who harm people they’ve never met. The mayor said that the city is suffering from panic-buying of food, but that what San Jose “cannot have is panic buying of guns.” So is Liccardo saying that it’s okay to panic-buy food, but not okay to exercise a constitutionally protected right? Probably so.

    Last week in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mayor Latoya Cantrell issued her own state of emergency declaration, completely sweeping aside most if not all of her constituents’ constitutional rights. First, the declaration permits the seizure of any private property. While the commandeering of private, personal property is accepted by some, the declaration doesn’t specify whether it applies to seizure of your car or your home. Worse, Mayor Cantrell authorized authorities “to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transporting of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustibles.” Transportation doesn’t necessarily mean transportation for sale, so it could easily be applied to individuals transporting their firearms after, say, they are compelled to leave their homes. Mayor Cantrell’s office released another declaration on Monday which makes no reference to firearms, but it is unclear at this time whether this declaration is complementary or if it supersedes the previous declaration.

    Trading safety for security is the most foolish thing we can do as a society. We should have learned this lesson with the deceptively named Patriot Act, but here we are. While it is important to preserve human life, it is also important to make sure that the necessary evil we’ve elected for this purpose–the government itself–isn’t able to use the task to bludgeon our rights. The people in these positions are our most direct representatives, and they must be held accountable for these abuses. 


Pennsylvania background check system crashes

    The Pennsylvania State Police issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing two major outages of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), the state’s version of the federal background check system. This happened amidst a 219% increase in firearms purchases by Pennsylvanians. Everytown for Gun Safety referred to PICS as the “model” gun background check system in the United States. The program received approximately $2,000,000 in federal funding between 2012 and 2017, used for technological and process improvements by the state police. If it’s really the pinnacle of state background check systems, then why was it brought to its knees by less than ten thousand requests over a 24 hour period? Pennsylvania’s population is just shy of 13 million, so requests made by less than .08% of the state’s population crashed the system. Twice. Maybe the better question is whether the program is designed to fail. 

    The state usually argues that background checks ensure that prohibited people can’t get their hands on firearms. This couldn’t be further from the truth – criminals have shown time and time again that they can gain access to firearms regardless of which laws a state may have on the books. We already have an infuratingly comprehensive federal system, so why do duplicative systems like PICS need to exist? Not only do systems like PICS delay firearms acquisitions, but they can, and do, wind up frustrating purchases entirely. Although the Pennsylvania State Police promises to improve the system and staffing, it is important to note that it could “unexpectedly” fail again if a shopping mall’s worth of people, say, decided to exercise their right to purchase a handgun.