Since everyone else seems to be doing it, I am thinking about forming my own group on the internet called I Am A New Gun Nut. I’ll have a website, a Facebook page, a domain like newgunnut.com, all of which I can create in about 30 minutes at a cost of maybe fifty bucks. Then I’ll find some guy who can make me some t-shirts to sell for $19.95 and let’s not forget a bumper sticker with some kind of logo I’ll design myself.
I got this idea after reading what has to be the dumbest article of the many recent articles on the COVID-19 gun surge, a piece that appeared in an online magazine and is the work of a free-lance journalist who also writes for The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and The Village Voice. In other words, he’s a guy who doesn’t know anything about guns. But what he does know how to do is go out and interview the kind of people with whom the readership of those liberal websites have never come into contact at all; namely, the alt-right weirdos who have become a fixture of liberal journalistic interest in the Age of Trump. And what could be weirder for liberal readers sitting in the midst of their urban quarantines than residents of the poorest, rural outposts in Appalachia, piling into gun shops to buy their first guns?
Our intrepid correspondent, Nick Keppler, gets it wrong right from the start when he notes that the FBI conducted more than 3.7 million background checks in March, the highest monthly number since God knows when. The fact that more than half the phone calls handled by the FBI call center had nothing to do with the purchase of guns, oh well, oh well. The fact that background checks for handguns in April had already fallen by 30% from March, oh well, oh well. Why let facts get in the way of a good story, right?
But here’s where this story becomes so detached from any kind of reality that I really believe I can make a good living by taking Keppler’s totally-fanciful approach to understanding gun sales and creating an online movement that will celebrate the first-time ownership of guns. To support his argument about how first-time buyers are ‘flooding’ into gun stores located in Appalachia, we are given the numbers of background checks in states like Kentucky, comparing checks in March, 2020 to checks in March, 2019.
Comparing month-to-month sales in Kentucky, Keppler says there were 379,268 checks in 2019 as opposed to 235,305 checks this year. Wait a minute! How can the residents of a state like Kentucky be worried about home invasions during the COVID-19 crisis when there were 40% fewer background checks than last year? And by the way, what Keppler evidently doesn’t understand is that Kentucky is one of the few states which uses the FBI-NICS system to check the status of every gun license issued in the state, whether that individual purchases a gun or not. Oh well, oh well.
What I like is the comment from our friend David Yamane, a sociologist at Wake Forest University who promotes himself as a tried-and-true gun nut even though he probably doesn’t own five guns. When asked by Keppler to explain the surge in first-time gun buying, here’s what Yamane had to say: “It’s like the toilet paper, if they can’t have anything else under control, they know they have that one thing under control.”
That’s perfect. Simply perfect. When I set up my gun nut website I’m going to offer a free roll of toilet paper in return for a small payment of, let’s say $25, from anyone who joins my group. Maybe you still can’t get toilet paper in Appalachia, but yesterday when I went into my local supermarket to buy food for my three cats, I noticed that the shelves holding toilet paper were chock full. So much for the great surge in demand for guns, toilet paper or anything else.