OPINION / OBSERVER
Rising gun sales could be more deadly than COVID-19
Published: Apr 08, 2020 07:33 PM

College student Jennifer Estrada takes part in a rally for gun control and anti-racism, in El Paso, Texas, the US, on August 7, 2019. Two mass shootings took place hours apart over the weekend in the US, leaving at least 31 people dead. Photo: Xinhua/Wang Ying

The sad fact that the proliferation of guns has become a cancer to US society could not be made clearer when Americans are seen stockpiling guns and ammunition during the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to a New York Times report earlier this month, "with some people fearful that the pandemic could lead to civil unrest," over 2 million guns were purchased by Americans in March. 

What does that figure actually mean? The skyrocketing gun sales risk ever more shooting deaths, which have already gravely traumatized the US. Fears surrounding the pandemic have boosted not only gun sales, but shooting incidents as well. A man in New Mexico, who was arming himself amid the COVID-19 scare, reportedly accidentally killed his 13-year-old cousin with a gun last month. 

The US is now caught in a deep social contradiction. Purchasing a gun might provide some psychological comfort and confidence but as more people possess guns, the more insecure and dangerous society becomes. It's a vicious circle.

Buying a gun doesn't protect anyone from the coronavirus pandemic. The gun buying spree is likely to make America's gun problem even worse and risks a new violent plague of gun violence in American society. Even after the US overcomes the coronavirus pandemic, more guns engulfing the country will increase gun-related crimes and deaths. Worse still, imagine if civil unrest really does break out and every one pulls out a gun for self-protection. What will US society look like then?  

Unfortunately, the US government, deliberately or not, has failed to grasp the severity of the problem. According to a Wall Street Journal report in late March, the federal government has advised states that gun stores, gun makers and shooting ranges are critical businesses and shouldn't be closed during the shutdown meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

For a government that has long turned a blind eye to gun violence and a deaf ear to growing calling for a gun ban, it's not entirely unexpected to see the deadly business involving firearms remain open. It may be the only vibrant industry left in the US.  

The US government is to blame for rampant gun sale for not providing the public with a sense of security during the epidemic. The Trump administration's botched response to the epidemic has been a disaster. It screwed up the window of opportunity China made great self-sacrifices to offer the world, downplayed the escalating outbreak, failed to quickly and sufficiently test patients and fanned the flames of anti-Asian Chinese by using racist slur to put the blame on China. 

The proliferation of guns could be even more fatal than the virus. The US inaction on gun control and the green light given to the firearm business amid the epidemic fully demonstrates its disdain for the right to life - the most basic human right - which also partly explains why the US has so poorly handled the growing coronavirus epidemic. 


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