"Demand for Guns Crashes Pennsylvania State Police Background Check System"

The flip side of the story: San Jose gun stores, apparently alongside many other stores, have been ordered closed as non-"essential" businesses.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Lehigh Valley Live (Rudy Miller) reports, citing this Pennsylvania State Police press release:

Technology challenges and a surge in requests resulted in PICS twice going offline on March 17, 2020. An isolated server issue was responsible for the morning outage from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. The second outage happened between 5:00 and 8:40 p.m., due to a backlog of requests.

Despite the downtime, PICS completed 4,342 transactions on March 17, compared to 1,359 transactions on the corresponding Tuesday in March 2019. Transactions include background checks for purchases, transfers, evidence returns, and license to carry applications.

The Pennsylvania State Police is working with its vendor to increase processing power to avoid future backlogs and will adjust staffing as needed to meet demand. Rumors circulating on social media that PICS has been shutdown as part of the commonwealth's response to the COVID-19 epidemic are false. PICS is, and will remain, operational.

We regret any inconvenience yesterday's downtime caused to licensed firearm dealers and their customers.

Fortunately, as best I can tell, the coronavirus epidemic hasn't so far led to an increase in crime (and might indeed lead to a decrease), or to a sharp increase in police response times. I very much hope that it won't. But events such as this remind people about how fragile normal civilization can be, and lead some to reasonably conclude that the time to stock up—even for a low-probability outcome—is now rather than later, when shelves are bare, background check systems are down, or gun stores are closed as non-"essential" businesses.

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  1. People are scared, and this is a good example of that — and it’s why leaders need to not exacerbate that fear.

    Also, what are the legal implications of the nursing home outbreaks being spread by sick staff?
    https://www.boston.com/news/health/2020/03/18/sick-staff-fueled-outbreak-in-seattle-area-care-centers

  2. There is also the constant threat of the zombie apocalypse.

    1. I agree that the magnitude of that threat is a constant.

      1. That is an excellent lawyer answer (no offense) the threat being near zero as possible, especially if we are talking about the walking dead as opposed to pandemic infected zombies.

        1. Thanks, glad you liked it!

        2. Are the running dead not included?

          1. Those frenetic 28 DAYS LATER zombies were a breath of fetid air in the zombiverse.

      2. The guy who used to work across the aisle from me was a gun nut. I say that not just because the size of his arsenal, or the fact he used to doodle sketches of guns with a dreamy look in his eye – but once he waved me over to show a snapshot of some machine-pistol kinda-thingy with a silencer, lovingly splayed out on his bed something like a porno pic. So: Gun nut.

        And I’m not. I’ve developed a theory on guns called the WeedEater Analogy. I live in the city and do no landscaping or gardening, so own no weedeater. I can invent wildly improbable scenarios where a weedeater is suddenly needed, perhaps even for heroic action!! But who am I trying to kid? The odds of those scenarios are microscopic. Perhaps if someone convinced me owning a weedeater made me a hardy pioneer, or bulwark against the State? Nah; I’m not THAT stupid. If people bought guns like weedeaters this would be a much, much much better country….

        But my workmate ….. I asked him : When the Zombie Apocalypse comes and the undead walk the earth, will you loan me one of your guns. Loan, mind you, not give. He said NO, really shirty-like. You really learn who your friends are in a Zombie Apocalypse

        1. While the utility of guns and ammo in societal breakdown situation cannot be fully appreciated until we are in such a situation (you grb would want plenty of both if it happened), the more normal reality is that societal breakdowns typically occur slowly, and you can’t eat your guns/ammo.

          So, guns are ammo and knowing how to use them, definitely a positive. But it is more important to be in shape, out of debt, and have food stored up.

          1. I don’t think debt would matter much during a societal breakdown of that nature.

            1. In the temp jobs between the press shutdown and getting social security, I worked awhile for a credit card collection call center. I tell you, in a societal breakdown, as banes to be avoided, collection agencies rank as bad as rampaging mobs and walking dead.

          2. I love a good checklist:

            (1) Knowing how to use guns : I was medium proficiency with an M-16 during my years in the N.G. – particularly good shooting prone or from a foxhole. And I qualified Expert on the M-203 grenade launcher, but all 5 or 6 of us on the range did. Close counts in grenades.
            (2) In shape : Yikes! I’ve rather gone to seed this past decade. Been meaning to do something about that….
            (3) Out of Debt : Completely
            (4) Food Storage : Not really. But when I hiked the AT during my Great Recession unemployment, I boxed several months of food: Pasta, starches, and carbs bagged with different mixes of freeze-dried veggies into daily portions. So the experience is there at least.

            The real question is whether I’ll need a weedeater to fight off the call center zombies……

      3. Professor Volokh, the answer is at odds with scientific research on the process of zombification.

  3. It’s always a good time to stock up on ammo. Well, except for right now because it’s expensive or unavailable.

    1. I had a friend who had thousands of rounds of .38 he didn’t want to take with him when he moved across the country. I was more than happy to take them off his hands.

      That said, stored properly (no heat or humidity or extreme cold) the stuff lasts decades.

    2. “Non-essential business”. I assume they can close newspapers and tv stations, too.

      Democracies fall when people grant the leader infinite power and they never give it up.

      “Wait. Stop. Don’t do it,” Willy Wonka sighed, as the kids ran wild.

      1. Krayt: (1) I think that a categorical quarantine likely could be applied to massive in-person newspaper creation and distribution activities, and in-person TV production, if it’s applied to other manufacturing. (I doubt it’s being so applied, but it could be.) This would be especially so today, when online creation and distribution is at least something of an option.

        (2) I’m pretty sure that other generally First-Amendment-protected businesses — bookstores, movie theaters, church services, political rallies, etc. — are generally covered by the current quarantine rules.

        (3) We’ve had a lot of experience with quarantines in the U.S., and my sense is that they haven’t led to enduring government power to shut down permanently the activities that were shut down briefly. Among other things, the very breadth and disruptiveness of the quarantines tends to make the quarantines self-limiting (see this post).

        1. I’m not making arguments of the law as-is, just worried about the ease with which politicians jump to this stuff.

          1. Krayt, Lincoln dealt with your argument. Google, “Lincoln emetics”

    3. The military target match scheduled this weekend was canceled (state requested no unnecessary meetings of over 10 persons).

      Humm. I could try to exchange excess ammo for toilet paper?

  4. There’s certainly an increase in concern about domestic violence. But there couldn’t possibly be a relationship between gun ownership and the harm done by domestic violence, could there?

    1. Not if both parties are armed… 🙂

      On a more realistic note, are you also going to ban knives, motor vehicles, matches, rat poison, and sharp sticks? Well, England is trying to ban knives now, so, well…..

    2. My wife owned a gun and I never beat her.
      So, there’s that connection.
      Martinned, you are so tiresome on the gun issue.

      By the way, over a third of my guns were acquired “off the books”. The black market created by restrictive gun laws is actually a blessing to some.

      1. “Over a third of my guns” implies that you have at least six. What’s the minimum number that one needs to protect oneself and one’s family, whether it’s from criminals or zombies?

        1. Oh, needs, minimum limited to protection? I keep a .38 revolver and occasionally a 12ga shotgun as designated home defense.

          Versus wants? A good .22 rifle for target practice and small game hunting, a deer rifle, a shotgun, a .22 target pistol, a centerfire defensive hand gun. Minimum.

          I started shooting with my dad in the the country at age six, hunting with my uncle in my teens, participated in civilian marksmanship as a teen before military service. I have hunted, participate in various shooting sports (clays, muzzleloading, BP cartridge, vintage military, modern military, .22 silhouette). I pickuped a few curios and relics as collectibles. Family or friends gift me guns (I don’t wear ties). I have bought guns from family or friend who needed money. The numbers add up. There are other traditional and lawful uses for guns besides protection from criminals or zombies. I have encountered a rabid animal, and have been warned about predators on the mountain.

          1. My school transcripts would prove that I certainly never mastered math beyond about 8th Grade. But I still have a hunch that six is correct. But it’s a moot point since we know Mr. Brown is well armed for the coming apocalypse, whatever form it takes.

        2. At least seven, you mean (unless he’s a math major, in which case nothing at all is implied about his total gun count).

    3. Absolutely, there is a relationship between gun ownership and domestic violence harm. As it turns out, the relationship is inverse. That is, as gun ownership goes up, domestic violence goes down. Given that women are the fastest-growing demographic of gun owners and that the vast majority of gun uses are defensive, this is not surprising to anyone with more than two brain cells.

      1. Everything I have read about the relationship of domestic violence to gun ownership contradicts the apparent assertion that “the relationship is inverse.” Do you contend people who own guns are less likely to be abusers, or to injure victims of domestic violence?

  5. At first I was concerned that the database was failing because of a software bug, that the virus had been transmitted into it. That would be even scarier than zombies.

  6. One thing most people don’t realize is that every gun sale in California has to go through a dealer who has bot a federal and a state license. There is also a ten day waiting period butthe gun has to be picked up within thirty days. If the gun isn’t picked up within that twenty day window the process has to start over complete with a new fee, background check and waiting period.

    1. Avoid the legal hassle. Go black market.
      Look to Mexico:
      3 million legal civilian guns registered with the Mexican Army.
      53 million illegal guns unregistered, no paperwork, the only delay is making a black market connection.

  7. Considering that a. We’re all not basically a week into this and b. Da’s in Philly and Brooklyn have already said they won’t be charging certain crimes right now, this seems quite logical

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