Gun sales spike often after high-profile, gun-related tragedies, but, as we keep hearing, Sandy Hook Elementary and the horror we have only just begun to unpack are “different,” so it stands to reason a resultant rush on gun shops too would be “different.”
And while a gun sales spike has been reported after similar events in the past — nearly across the board — the FBI admits that the post-Newtown surge was its own sad record, a legacy to a day in which we saw a tragedy the likes of which we thought we’d never bear. The role of guns as an issue in the shootings is under heavy dispute in the US — some say all guns risk our safety, others say the presence of an armed adult could have saved more people on the ground. Both appear to be true.
Still, the FBI say that the most background checks in a single day in history were submitted on December 15, the day after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. And from the least cynical perspective, this makes sense.
A gun sales spike may look unpalatable for some, but, at least for the foreseeable future, guns are going nowhere — and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? It would be unfair to expect any law-abiding American to exempt themselves from gun ownership when others can be armed and thus threaten their safety.
Chuck Lawson of Don’s Weaponry in North Little Rock, Arkansas says, however, that people aren’t afraid of their surroundings. The looming threat of tighter gun restrictions has caused the surge he’s seen in gun sales. Lawson says:
“Yesterday, it really, really increased. After the president’s speech, it scared a lot of people … They are wanting to get a hold of just about anything before it’s banned.”
Miles Hall of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma had eerily identical comments to make — essentially saying that five days of record gun sales in his shop were borne not of a rational desire to protect oneself but rather a creeping fear that gun rights supporters need to get while the getting is good. Hall explains:
“You have people coming in because they’re worried that the government is going to their guns away, and it has literally been off the charts.”
The logic is there for the gun sales spike, but could it be that this is part and parcel of the horrible problem in America with gun violence? The underlying theme of these comments, made by gun shop managers and owners around the country, may belie what is our real problem with guns here in the US.
Far from a rational and reasonable measure of self protection, it seems the gun culture we have is one of fear, stand your ground, shoot ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out. In theory, Americans were granted a unique right from our forefathers to bear arms in the event of a tyrannical government.
We were charged with once again rising up should the government transmute to a monarchy or dictatorship, restore what was meant to be a free land. Instead of responsibly using and storing our arms, however, we’ve embraced an ideal that’s more Joe Pesci in Goodfellas than Patrick Henry or Paul Revere. Handed a legacy we were expected to carry on, we’ve gotten what Tony Soprano would call “cowboyitis.”
And reading the coverage of the gun sales spike and the reasons those in gun shops say is the reason, I can’t help but think of the death of a major character on Breaking Bad in a recent episode and the way the scene panned out. (If you watch the show, it was near a lake.)
The scene was a contrast between circumspect and hasty, two characters each embodying one of those descriptors. It was brilliantly done.
And as the former lay dying of a wound preventable had the latter stopped to think, he accepted his fate without anger, just moderate annoyance. The shooter in the scene realized his fatal error and rapidly spouted a series of apologies, to which his victim replied: “shut the **** up, and let me die in peace.”
When gun sales spike after a tragedy and we examine it with a similar air of inevitability, it seems perhaps this is another issue we can consider in the “national conversation” about guns. It seems we lament every tragedy as they come at us one by one, and never take the time to reconsider the culture of fear surrounding weapons. Maybe it’s time we started.