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Has There Been A 800 Percent Surge In Buying Personal Weapons In US Amidst COVID-19?

Picture Courtesy : Sky News

This is a big question before the Trump Administration and its time that we In India take note of this wholly unexpected development in the USA and its implications for global economy and security. In a center page article by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharya carried 1st April 2020 issue of Kolkata based Bengali version of the daily Statesman- Dainik Statesman contained a full account of this development. A summary is placed below:

While shops in US across the country selling arms usually sell at the most 20- 25 personal weapons daily- usually hand guns and rifles, in the last few weeks or so as the pandemic intensified ,arms sales have seen a sudden surge of as high as 800% . The arms dealers and retailers have been caught unaware and unable to meet the demand and the US media is baffled by the development . There are good reasons for worry: first, a big increase in the demand from hand or shot guns to AR 15 semiautomatic Rifles which are allowed to citizens under the rather liberal US gun laws. These are nearly as lethal as assault rifles used by the regular armed forces in combat. New York, Washington, Alabama and Ohio lead in this surge .

Arms shops are thus open in all 7 days a week and people of all age groups and especially the young have been lining up for purchase of guns as never before. The chairman, Every town for Gun safety said in an interview that in the wake of outbreak of coronavirus Pandemic which in USA claimed already 3171 lives and 164345 persons are down with the same, people are fearing social tensions, spurt to crimes and consequently civil strife of the kind that the American people have not experienced so far; because there is widespread feeling that a “depression” – a severe slow down is not far away signs of which are already there in the shape of fall in share value of stocks and Mutual Fund investments, property prices, pension Plans and fear of job losses and unemployment.

Considering the fact that there’s no real social security for the US citizens in place to meet a depression of the 1930 Wall Street crash magnitude because of adherence to ” Free market” philosophy that abhors a state role in the economy ;and a perception among the dominant class that ” State is part of the problem”, the US is ill prepared for the impending”Depression” .

This could be much more severe than what the US experienced in 2008-9 following the subprime crisis that put the world economy under the still continuing ” Great recession”. Why are the common citizens especially the middle class so apprehensive of a civil strife? The answer is gross unequal distribution of income and wealth in the US which is now well documented in US official and reports of international agencies like the Oxfam which submit annually the country wise position of distribution of wealth.

In recent years roughly 1% of the US population owned about 27% of the nation’s wealth. But more damaging is the point made by Kishore Mahabubani, distinguished Singaporean scholar- diplomat in his recent study entitled ” Has the West lost it ?” in which quoting US official sources, he noted that “63% of the Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $ 500 emergency”. The position must be worse among the Blacks, Hispanics and other underprivileged ethnic groups.

When such a diverse and unequal society start arming for self defense, there is cause for anxiety especially among the better off sections and a good number of ethnic Indians are in this category. Because nothing destabilizes a state and economy more quickly than outbreak of a civil strife. All out efforts therefore must be made by Trump Administration right now to avoid a “depression” as it will be catastrophic for USA as well and the global economy.

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