Anxious times lead to spike in gun permits

It is not breaking news that gun permit applications go up in general proportion to how things seem to be outside our windows. You saw it after 9/11. You saw it after Sandy and Ferguson. And now through the current crises of COVID-19 killing ten of thousands, millions unemployed and a painful racial awakening.

“Well, I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen it in 2013, 2016. Any time there’s a natural disaster, or a Democrat being elected into office, people are afraid that they’re going to lose their rights and they want to be grandfathered in,” said Anthony Colandro, owner of Gun for Hire.

“Right now people are scared. They can’t believe what they’re seeing on TV and in the media. They hear civil unrest and governments that won’t keep law and order, and so it’s a very natural response to want to take charge for your own self protection,” said Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.

Through June of 2019, 26,121 gun permits were granted in New Jersey, according to New Jersey State Police. In 2020, the number through that same period is 42,689. That’s a more than an 65% increase. Nationally, background checks were up 136% over last year.

But given the ebb and flow of gun permit trends, should we be any more concerned about them today?

“Yes. The simple answer is yes, there should be concern,” said Mike Anestis of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center. “As a suicide researcher by trade, my concern is that if folks are socially isolated, if there’s prolonged economic hardship, then introducing firearms into the home is going to increase the risk for suicide.”

It increases the chances for gun accidents and makes every domestic dispute a potential homicide. But that’s not what most folks are ever thinking about when they apply for a license. And any responsible gun dealer will tell you that, while more gun permits are good for business…

“It does concern me because I want to make sure people get properly educated and trained on those forearms and not just buy them and throw them in the nightstand and feel protected because it is a serious decision to own a firearm,” said Colandro.

Both advocates for more gun rights and those who favor stricter controls say they respect the Second Amendment. Some gun control advocates say it’s the approach to the idea of home protection — the driving force behind all the fervor for firearms — that could stand some tweaking.

“If you are considering acquiring your first firearm, if you’re going to be a first-time purchaser during COVID, the first thing I would ask is are there other precautions that you can take that would offer you that same safety without the same risk, so alarm systems, a dog, using locks, getting a baseball bat,” said Anestis.

In 2017, the most recent year for which the CDC has statistics, almost 40,000 people in the United States were killed in gun-related incidents. Three-quarters of all U.S. murders that year involved a firearm, and about half of all suicides that year involved a gun. And still, so many guns, legal and illegal, are so readily available.