Watch CBS News

Inside Politics With Jon Delano: Does Buying A Gun Help With Coronavirus?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Gun and ammunition sales are surging across Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.

Kim Stolfer, president and co-founder of Firearms Owners Against Crime, says sales are up 100 to 600 percent.

The impetus is two-fold, arising from the fear of the future impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

First, could there be a breakdown in law and order as a result of millions of people being unprepared for the virus and targeting those who have prepared?

Second, will the current police and law enforcement community be able to respond quickly to public disorder, especially if some of their numbers are hospitalized or home-bound with the disease?

It's only natural that some would want to protect themselves.

On the day before it closed its gun permit office, the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office issued 200 concealed carry permits.

"A lot of my friends already have it, so I kind of felt like I should get it too," one person told KDKA's Meghan Schiller. "And just to have added protection because it's so uncertain what's going on right now."

"Unfortunately, people have fear of the unknown, so getting a gun might be a good thing," said another, adding hopefully, "I don't think it's going to fall into lawlessness."

While both the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 21, of the Pennsylvania Constitution, protect the right to bear arms – "The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned," says the state Constitution – the state legislature has imposed some limitations, a source of frequent debate between pro-gun and anti-gun groups.

In Pennsylvania, for example, a concealed carry permit is usually required if you wish to transport a firearm in your vehicle.

While it is legal in this state to "open carry" a firearm – remember the armed demonstrations against the City of Pittsburgh's firearms ordinances?

That law only applies to walking with a gun, not transporting a firearm in a vehicle.

If you own a firearm and wish to protect your adult children at their home, you must have a concealed carry permit to take your firearms there, unless you can walk to their home.

The only exception to this rule, says Stolfer, is when you transport a gun to and from a gun dealer, a shooting range, a vacation or recreational home or a gun turn-in location.

By the way, Pennsylvania law is also clear on sharing firearms. With some limited exceptions, a person cannot loan or borrow someone else's gun unless the recipient already has a concealed carry permit.

Gun owners who do not have a concealed carry permit may also find themselves restricted in an open carry situation because Governor Tom Wolf has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

That emergency declaration restricts the carry and use of firearms on public streets.

Section 6107 of Title 18 states: "No person shall carry a firearm upon the public streets or upon any public property during an emergency proclaimed by a State or municipal governmental executive unless that person is: (1) Actively engaged in a defense of that person's life or property from peril or threat. (2) Licensed to carry firearms under section 6109 {relating to licenses) or is exempt from licensing under section 6106(b) (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license)."

Owning a gun with the proper permits will not prevent you from getting the coronavirus.

But it certainly makes many people feel safer.

Here's another safety concern. Are there laws that require the safe storage of firearms in the home, especially when children are out of school during this pandemic?

The short answer is no, at least not in Pennsylvania.

A national survey last fall found that 83 percent of women and 74 percent of men favored mandatory storage of firearms under lock.

But gun-rights advocates say that defeats the whole purpose of having quick access to a firearm in an emergency.

While Pennsylvania does not require the storage of guns under lock, there is both civil and criminal liability for doing something clearly negligent with your firearms.

If you believe owning a firearm makes you safer, you certainly (under most circumstances) can buy a gun rather easily in Pennsylvania.

Feeling they are essential for public safety, most gun shops remain open in this area.

Please let me know if this coronavirus pandemic has reinforced or changed your views of gun ownership.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.