Will Coronavirus Fears Lead to an Assault on Gun Rights?

Power-seeking public officials thrive on our fear.


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Draconian bills to restrict self-defense rights have a life of their own in Congress. There's always one lurking in the background. Left to its own devices, it's unlikely to become law, but it's ready to be deployed if a high-profile crime or convenient crisis emerges to ease its passage. And that brings us to the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020, a far-reaching bill hovering in the legislative shadows as the COVID-19 pandemic breaks down barriers to authoritarian measures.

Introduced in the Senate and the House at the end of January by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) Rep. Hank Johnson (D–Ga.), the bill would impose federal licensing for guns and ammunition, require universal background checks, ban so-called "assault weapons," outlaw normal-capacity magazines, regulate DIY firearms, and otherwise impose the full wish list of restrictions sought by those who would prefer to see an armed government ruling over disarmed subjects.

With its intrusions into rights cherished by much of the population, the proposed law is a recipe for noncompliance, confrontations between people and enforcers, and deepened political divisions. It's also exactly the sort of legislation that is normally dead on arrival. But these aren't normal times. Officials with fever dreams of expanded power thrive on our fear.

"As the coronavirus pandemic brings the world to a juddering halt and anxious citizens demand action, leaders across the globe are invoking executive powers and seizing virtually dictatorial authority with scant resistance," The New York Times warned on March 30.

The restrictions described in the article are wide-ranging, covering everything from detentions to surveillance to censorship. The Department of Justice has floated the idea of indefinite detention, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speculated about the possibility of martial law "if we feel the necessity," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to arrest anybody who ventures from home for an unapproved reason, and jurisdictions across the country have ordered or considered ordering gun stores—among other "nonessential" businesses—closed for the duration of the crisis.

In selling their gun control bill, Warren and Johnson play on public fears and the desire to be "saved" from unseen perils. In a joint January 30 press release trumpeting their gun bill, Warren and Johnson described a country rife with violence "in homes and on sidewalks, in schools and supermarkets, in places of worship and workplaces." They invoked a false "crisis" involving a made-up "epidemic"—just as a real crisis-sized epidemic was rolling into our lives.

That potent combination of real and overblown crises doesn't mean that the "Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020" will pass, but it does mean that this is a ripe moment for authoritarian practices of all sorts. It also means that this particular legislative monstrosity is being sold in precisely the most effective way for such a moment.

And pushback isn't important just for self-defense rights; it's a necessary part of a larger effort to put governments on notice. They must stop exploiting our fear to expand their power.

This video is based on a column originally published on April 1.

Written by J.D. Tucille. Voiceover by Katherine Mangu-Ward. Motion graphics by Lex Villena. 

Photo Credits: Brittany GIBSON/SIPA/Newscom, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom, Jeff Malet Photography/NewscomJeff Malet Photography/Newscom, Photo 18290156 © Bladerunner88 -, ID 129878190 © Tony Bosse |, ID 35801857 © Paulus Rusyanto |, 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2 NIAID (CC BY 2.0), ID 99729742 © Gearstd |, ID 117771068 © Siam Pukkato |, Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 by NIAID, Photo 176566794 © Elnur -, Photo 18290156 © Bladerunner88 -

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  1. “Don’t be paranoid, nobody wants to take your penis-substitute schoolchild-killing machines.”

  2. “Just *look* at that shoulder thing that goes up! There’s *no way* it can be adequately wiped free of the virus!”

  3. Answer: Coronavirus fears have already led to an assault on all rights.

  4. I guess the up side is when a crisis occurs like this, lots of people go and buy guns (which is really annoying because I wanted to buy some guns this spring anyway and now everything is more expensive). Presumably a fair number of these are people who didn’t own guns before.

    1. The only way to kill the coronavirus is 2 in the chest. It is known.

      1. 2 30-round magazines will be enough to kill all 19 of the COVIDs with ammo to spare.

  5. I demand equal protection; if second amendment gun stores are non-essential, so are first amendment media outlets.
    No social media, no podcasts, no newspapers, no broadcast news, etc.
    We can rely on our duly elected officials for all that is true and right; only official notices need to be distributed.

    1. Journalists will be subject to federal background checks every time they publish. Computers will be limited to publishing/serving 10 sentences at a time. Talk radio and social media will be reclassified as destructive devices.

      1. A good start; can we add the ten day waiting period before publishing?

  6. “Will Coronavirus Fears Lead to an Assault on Gun Rights?”

    No, but it will be used as an excuse to continue the unending assault on individual freedoms.

  7. “The right of self-defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible.”
    St Goerge Tucker

  8. The cynicism and manipulation being shown by politicians is shameful.

    But there is a significant number of Americans who agree with manipulation if they agree with that particular restriction.

    I suspect that our democracy has shallower roots than we would like to think.

    1. I agree.

      This entire episode has shown that The American Experiment is all but dead.

      Millions waiting around for their governor to appear on TV at he stroke of 5 to tell us what to do, cheering him on with cute pet names like “Uncle Andy”, while begging for more restrictions, and playing Quarantine Police for those with the temerity to disobey.

      Our republic founded on liberty is an 80 year old man with a heart condition lying in a hospital bed infected with Covid-19.

    2. “But there is a significant number of Americans who agree with manipulation if they agree with that particular restriction.”

      I came across this quotable a few months ago, don’t remember where [here perhaps] but it’s certainly pertienent:

      “Everyone loves authority, as long as they think it will be directed toward someone they do not like or agree with.”

      1. Pertinent. Edit button, please.

  9. “As the coronavirus pandemic brings the world to a juddering halt and anxious citizens demand action, leaders across the globe are invoking executive powers and seizing virtually dictatorial authority with scant resistance,” The New York Times warned on March 30.

    Were they “warning” or ejaculating in their pants?

    1. >>anxious citizens demand action

      i didn’t know anybody demanding action.

  10. >>They must stop exploiting our fear to expand their power.

    if i lick the bullets first am i a terrorist?

  11. Be careful with that fear-mongering there, citizen. Nobody’s finalized any programs to seize all the guns and baseless speculation about how far any plans for such programs might have advanced (which is not to say that there even are any plans for developing such a program) is engaging in anti-social rumor, hearsay and unsupported allegations which, as you know, is a prosecutable offense which may lead to your arrest, incarceration and having all of your guns seized.

  12. Day by day, it becomes more obvious that some on the political Left are actively trying to provoke violence, and even a second civil war.

    Their basic miscalculation is believing that it would be a civil war, when in fact, it would be a second American revolution. Nearly all of the factors of production, public sentiment and logistics which gave victory to the North are now in the “red” states, either primarily or exclusively.

    1. I would just say its because they have the guns and know how to use them.

    2. The left can’t win a war when they are incapable of fighting for themselves. These pussies will expect cops and the military to do their duty work. Many of whom will turn against them.

      1. Agreed.

        I’ve met exactly 1 anti-gun veteran, and he’s a fucking loon on most stuff, and never met an anti-gun cop (though I’m sure there’s both somewhere out there).

        That said, we have cops arresting people for playing catch wit their daughter or surfing alone just because their governors told them to, so I don’t know.

        1. Yeah something tells me those cops making those arrests would look for other things if they were getting SHOT for it! The main issue cops will have is that their whole job is based on responding to calls to exact locations. That probably isn’t the best business model for staying alive in any civil upheaval. But, its all they do. Why are Sheriffs refusing to even enforce red flag laws much less hardcore gun control? Because they know as soon as these laws are passed they’ll be the ones expected to enforce them and the outcomes will not be in their favor. What odds would you give someone of living until lunch on day one of the new go around and confiscate AR15 law? They’d be dead men with shiny tin worthless badges and they damn well fucking know it.

      2. I don’t think things will come anywhere close to that, but certainly bringing a bike lock to a gun fight would not work out well for them…

    3. I’d say the big problem for the liberals in a civil war is food/water. You’re gonna have a hard time feeding cities worth of folks when all the food comes from hostile rural areas.

      1. Logistics and motivation, that’s for sure.

        They could probably survive a civil war but conducting war will quickly exceed their resources and, unlike previous wars, they would have to pull off a pretty phenomenal feat of deception to get pretty much any part of the world to support violating their own Constitutional precepts against their own citizens.

  13. As clear of an example as any, that government proposals and actions are never for their purported purpose or people but are for governments’ power and / or privilege.

  14. They have to find them first.

  15. This sounds like the perfect time for the Green New Deal.

    We’re going to spend trillions to boost the economy, and we’ve already lost a bunch of non-essential jobs. What better way to turn this into a win-win than redirecting those jobs to a Green economy?

  16. I’ve noticed quite a few NRA ads recently, the NRA’s noticed the uptick of new gun owners and is trying to use it to their advantage. Now if only they would actually stand up for our rights when it mattered.

    1. In their defense, I don’ t think I’ve seen a GOA or NSSF or Project Appleseed ad anywhere that I wasn’t already invested in a weapon. Plenty of criticisms of the NRA could equally be leveled against the SAF or Constitutional Rights PAC or some other organization that nobody’s ever heard of (or could conceivably be given 100+ yr.s of narrative history). Hell; “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun,” *The* William B. Ruger

  17. Shortly I expect to see something like, “Along with the orders that everyone has to wear a mask when not at home, we need to remove guns from the public so potential armed robbers wearing masks can not obtain weapons.”

  18. Progressive rule numero uno:


    And all the more so when you can exploit it to expand your authority.

  19. Take the guns away from people, except of course, the black lawless gang-bangers that sell drugs in the Democratically controlled urban areas.

    I spite of the fact that this population contributes to a large part of the homicides, if you take their guns away, that would be racist.

    Go after the law abiding. It will be easier to get their guns even if it has little effect on homicide rates.

  20. Guns should be taken away from peoples. Recently I have also heard a case of shoot and dead due to this pandemic situation.

    1. Which peoples? Mario van peoples?

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