May 30, 2021

Pandemic?! Don't you mean the riots?

I'm seeing this headline on the front page of the NYT website: "Pandemic Fuels Surge in U.S. Gun Sales ‘Unlike Anything We’ve Ever Seen.'" Clicking through, I see the headline "An Arms Race in America: Gun Buying Spiked During the Pandemic. It’s Still Up. Preliminary research data show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners." 

It's absurd to state — as if it's a fact — that the pandemic "fueled" the surge when there were riots and the police stood down and did not protect the citizens! I personally got trained to use a gun last summer, and I fired a gun for the first time in my life. That had nothing to do with the pandemic. It was about civil disorder threatening my neighborhood and the manifest unwillingness of the city to keep order. You're on your own, we were told, quite plainly.

Let's see how obtusely the article avoids taking self-defense seriously. Guns aren't a way to defend yourself from the pandemic, so we look like idiots arming ourselves against that. I'd like to see if the NYT respects those of us who are actually thinking rationally about self-defense.

Paragraph 3 of the article alludes to the riots, but look how the NYT strains to undermine the rationality of decision to own a gun:

While gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked. 

Not "riots," not even "disorder" — "protests." As if the gun purchasers are afraid of ideas that were expressed. Buying guns was a "spree" — "spree" sounds irrational — and it was "fueled" — as if it's a fire — by "fear" — and that fear sounds irrational, because it's a reaction to "protests" and the pandemic — 2 things that are not properly addressed by owning a gun.  

In the sixth paragraph, we see some very interesting facts:

New preliminary data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners. And the data, which has not been previously released, showed that new owners were less likely than usual to be male and white. Half were women, a fifth were Black and a fifth were Hispanic...

I'm a woman, and I was a first-time gun user last summer. 

“Americans are in an arms race with themselves,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents South Los Angeles....

From my perspective, I think it seems that people who want peace and safety got forced into some new practical thinking as the traditional idea of calling the police suddenly looked shockingly weak. 

There is no single reason for the surge, but social scientists point to many potential drivers. “There is a breakdown in trust and a breakdown in a shared, common reality,” said Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland who writes about political violence.

Well, she's almost saying it, but at such a high level of abstraction, it's almost meaningless.

“There is also all this social change, and social change is scary.”

Again — meaningless abstraction. Maybe Mason said more in the interview and the NYT chose not to use it.

Thomas Harris, a former law enforcement officer who works at the gun counter at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Roanoke, Va., said that around March last year, the customers he would speak with began to include more white-collar workers, such as people from insurance firms and software companies.... He said many of these apparent first-time buyers purchased more expensive guns, in the range of $400 or more. The purpose, he said, was not to carry the gun around in public, but to keep it at home.

“They were saying: ‘We’re going to be locking down. We’re constrained to our homes. We want to keep safe.’”

That's a great quote for the NYT framework: Irrational folk thought a gun would help against the virus. 

But I do see something rational even in that. I know that last March, as the lockdown began and we laid in provisions, I contemplated the possibility that civil order would break down. What if the disease spiraled upward to the point where you couldn't get any medical care? What if you had a dead body in the house and no one would come take it away? Some people would lose their mind. Then what if the food supply chain broke down? That never happened, but it could have, and it was rational to imagine that there would be home invasions in search of food.


Ann Althouse said...

Rob writes:

If you blame the pandemic, which everybody knows is Trump's fault, you're blaming Trump. And that's cool.

However, if you blame the riots, you're blaming BLM...which makes you a racist. You know, like Trump. And that's not cool.

Why are you still reading the NYT?

Ann Althouse said...

Scott writes:

"There's a certain subset of the left that often fails to make a distinction between expressing an intention to defend oneself and expressing fear. The most notable example in my mind is the phrase "red scare". It always seemed like a sideways attempt to belittle and show condescension to any expression of defiance to the collective future that they have planned. It's similar to the condescension that oozes from the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" crowd. The denial of agency and belittlement of someone else's idea of their self interest."

Ann Althouse said...

Mattman26 writes:

So blacks and Hispanics are buying guns at a rate slightly exceeding their proportion of the population, and it’s no longer just those scary white males.

I am confident that somewhere in the murky soup that is anti-gun lefty thought (e.g. the New York Times), they think of lawful gun acquisition as the province of scary right-wing and/or redneck white men. And they portray upticks in lawful minority gun-buying (if it’s even true that it’s now above the norm; I trust the Times not a whit) as though it’s evidence of spreading irrationality, and possibly (they don’t directly say this, but I feel it’s in the subtext) evidence of preparation for a race war.

I bet they would be very surprised—to the point of incredulity—to learn that a large majority of conservative-leaning lawful gun-owners think that these minority upticks in gun-buying, if real, are excellent news. And no, not because now we can all start shooting at one another, but because those who lawfully own firearms, of whatever ethnicity, are extraordinarily likely to be good and decent people who are preparing to defend themselves and other good and decent people, all while the “authorities” seem perfectly content to encourage racial strife and the destruction of all that is good and decent.

Ann Althouse said...

Nancy writes:

“There is also all this social change, and social change is scary.”

"Scary" is baby talk. It's used here to infantilize the concerns of conservatives.

Ann Althouse said...

LA_Bob writes:

Governments at all levels failed to protect us from the pandemic. They never really could have protected us, because I don't believe our society yet understands how to manage and control respiratory viruses. But government leaders employ this useful fiction to convince us they can. It helps them keep power.

Governments could have protected people from the civil disturbances, but they didn't in misguided efforts to placate certain constituencies.

In both cases and in the same year, governments broke faith with the broader populace. And in doing so they have encouraged people to take care of their own defense. It shouldn't surprise anyone people turn to guns for protection, rightly or wrongly. Thank god we still have the right to do so.

Ann Althouse said...

Omaha1 writes:

"It is obvious to me that increasing gun ownership was due to both the pandemic and to civil unrest. Maybe I am excessively paranoid and give too much weight to "worst case scenarios" but it was pretty plausible that if food supply chains failed, hungry and desperate people might do almost anything to get food for themselves or their families. Also with the riots, which fortunately never spread to my small Kansas town, I would be very concerned about situations where angry mobs were coming to my house and threatening me, and the police being reluctant to respond in any meaningful way. Incidentally I have only one small handgun (for over 20 years) and I didn't buy any more guns (or ammunition) in the last year."

Ann Althouse said...

Temujin writes:

Yes, nothing says, 'Honey, let's go to the gun shop and buy a couple of Glocks" like being shut down by a virus pandemic. I dunno. Many people were afraid to go out to the stores, weren't allowed to go to restaurants/bars, gyms, schools. BUT...they somehow found the strength to sneak into gun shops that were miraculously kept open in those states?

These are the people who brought us "peaceful protests" as illustrated by burning cities, destroyed blocks of businesses and residences, and bombed police stations. They cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge the murders, the mayhem, the utter destruction of city neighborhoods by 'activists' of their approval. These are also the people who helped demand that we 'reimagine policing'. And we have.

Our cities have skyrocketing homicide rates. We're not just talking about shoplifting here. We're talking homicides. And on the topic of shoplifting, note that Walgreen's and CVS are pulling out of San Francisco, and soon, Seattle, because their prosecuting attorneys for the cities in these places (and others) are refusing to prosecute for thievery under $500. So, people have made it their job (in New York, SF, Seattle, Portland, LA, Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, and other cities) to just go in fill up baskets of goods and walk out. They resell these items on the street, get their drugs, sleep on your doorstep, and then repeat it all the next day.

So, yeah, we've defunded, police, installed socialist/unicorn believers as our Judges and DA's, praised rioters who destroyed city blocks and murdered people. Then we see a dramatic rise in first-time gun ownership and can think only of the pandemic as the reason.

It's almost as if the NY Times quit hiring adults.

Ann Althouse said...

Stephen writes:

Not mentioned context:

NYT April 26. 2021

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Carrying Guns in Public

The justices, who have not issued a major Second Amendment ruling since 2010, will consider a challenge to a longstanding New York gun control law.

'..."The ruling will profoundly impact the number of guns legally carried on the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Boston,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.”

“In these cities, only a handful of residents have permits to carry firearms,” he said.

The Supreme Court has turned down countless Second Amendment appeals since it established an individual right to keep guns in the home for self-defense in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Since then, lower courts have generally sustained gun control laws. But they are divided on the fundamental question posed by the new case: whether states can stop law-abiding citizens from carrying guns outside their homes for self-defense unless they can satisfy the authorities that they have a good reason for doing so.

Professor Winkler said the court’s willingness to hear the new case was part of former President Donald J. Trump’s legacy. “Trump’s three appointments to the Supreme Court,” he said, “have created a likely strong majority in favor of curtailing America’s gun laws.”

Ann Althouse said...

Rob writes:

"The career viability of the NYT reporter depends upon ignoring--or even actively denying--the relationship between Democrat leaders surrender to civil disorder after George Floyd and gun sales (or for that matter, murder rates) in their jurisdictions. Same with the U of Maryland political science professor. Sadly, buying guns or moving to safer locales may allow many voters to avoid confronting the hard political reality that the Progressive faith of our leadership class is based on denial of reality. Consequently, I see little sign of a law and order backlash restoring order to Blue cities as we witnessed from the late 60s through the 90s."

Ann Althouse said...

Donald writes:

Something I put together as part of a book project I'm working on. The numbers killed in the actual riots are small (i.e., murders tend to occur elsewhere in the city). High riot activity implies the number of riots in the city is above the median for the cities in the data set (n= 21). Murder data were available for only 21 cities. Murder data is from the FBI. Riot data is from ACLED. (See below.) I use their definitions of "murder" and "riot." Ideally, I would control for COVID infections at the city level in a more sophisticated analysis and include a larger number of cities. I haven't located city-level COVID data. Still, the figure suggests that the riots caused disorder and crime across the city (assuming that the number of riots was not associated with the number of COVID cases). The riot leader was Portland, OR at 103. Runner up was Seattle at 34. Seems logical that people would respond to a murder surge by buying a gun. (Full disclosure: I am not a gun owner and I do not live in a city.) [CHART SENT:] a simple bar graph [that] showed that for the 21 cities in the available data, cities with a riot count (i.e., days of rioting) below the median had a 28 percent increase in murders 2019-2020 while cities with a riot count above the median had a 47 percent increase in murders 2019-2020.

Ann Althouse said...

Zev writes:

"The dishonesty of the NYT is beyond belief. I am a lifelong non-gun-owner who never had interest in owning a gun. After the summer’s riots, I got a gun license and a handgun permit. I’m still ambivalent about owning a gun, and not interested in practicing with one, so I’ve (probably foolishly) let the handgun permit expire, but the news keeps giving me more reasons to exercise my 2nd Amendment right. I will likely buy a home defense weapon soon; maybe a shotgun.

"But yeah, it’s the riots, the lawlessness, the fecklessness of our elected officials."