The Wake County sheriff, Gerald Baker, has enough real problems to deal with right now, as do law enforcement officials everywhere. People who want to rush out and buy guns, and people who worry about gun rights more than, apparently, public health and safety, need to give him a break.
Overwhelmed with a huge surge in requests for permits for pistols and concealed carry, Baker suspended new applications until the end of April. Requests for those permits and for renewals surged last week to an average of 290 a day — more than triple the number before the coronavirus became a reality in Wake County.
Baker’s problem is obvious. By the time he called a halt, he already had 11 staff members in self-isolation for fear either they or their spouse might have the coronavirus. It’s only a matter of time before the virus affects more of the staff. In the meantime, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office has new demands to deal with, including helping to enforce that county’s shelter-in-place rules. Wake is one of the top three counties in North Carolina in reported coronavirus cases. Then there’s the way people were lining up out the door of the public safety center in Raleigh, risking spreading the virus to one another and to the staff.
Odds are people wouldn’t be getting their permits any time soon anyway. By the time he called a suspension, Baker’s office had a backlog of 755 pending applications. It would be different if Baker were keeping people from getting something essential — say food or medication. But more guns are not what people need, especially now.
People are afraid. Their lives are disrupted. Often, tempers fray. Panic buying is already causing problems. Panic buying of guns will only make things worse. People who work with victims of domestic violence warn of a likely spike in violence as the pandemic lockdown means people spend more time together in stressful circumstances. The sheriff’s office staff that processes gun permits will need to be more careful than ever, and certainly should not rush through an avalanche of applications.
Predictably, some gun rights groups rushed to complain about what they consider a violation of the Second Amendment. But Baker isn’t trying to take anyone’s guns away or even to keep people who have permits from buying guns. He’s simply saying that under the circumstances, the flood of applications is endangering the public health and interfering in his offices’s more essential work.
That makes so much sense that you’d think other public officials would be supporting Baker. But no, Republican state Sens. Warren Daniel of Burke County and Danny Britt of Robeson County called the suspension illegal and demanded that Baker rescind it. State Rep. Tim Moore, the speaker of the N.C. House, joined the chorus. The lawmakers are saying that people are already frightened, on edge and subject to paranoia and that buying guns will somehow help the situation — an argument that’s highly questionable, to say the least. Crowding into a line to get a gun permit or buy a gun will put people at more risk than not having a gun.
People need to calm down. We must be sensible and work together to weather this health emergency and its unavoidable economic and social consequences. Getting more guns is not going to help.