Are gun shops ‘essential’ businesses during a pandemic?

People wait to check in for appointments at a gun shop in California. Retailers have been urged to show ‘prudence’ over private sales. (AFP)
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Updated 28 March 2020

Are gun shops ‘essential’ businesses during a pandemic?

  • Firearms sales in the US are surging to record levels, raising fears over public safety

AUSTIN, Texas: In some parts of the US, authorities say gun shops aren’t essential businesses and should close during stay-at-home orders meant to slow the coronavirus. In other places, officials are stopping background checks for concealed carry permits. Elsewhere, city leaders have invoked emergency powers allowing bans on gun sales.

As the nation grapples with a pandemic that has upended daily life, some gun advocates are concerned about an erosion of Second Amendment rights just as Americans are buying firearms in record numbers to try to ensure their safety.

“When there is a national emergency, people are looking for food, water, shelter — that part is important to the survival of our nation,” said Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin. “They are also looking for the Second Amendment to protect their families.”

He’s scaled back how long he’s open each day but said he won’t close his shop and doesn’t believe he should be forced to.

In recent weeks, firearm sales have skyrocketed. Background checks — the key barometer of gun sales — already were at record numbers in January and February, likely fueled by a presidential election year. Since the coronavirus outbreak, gun shops have reported long lines and runs on firearms and ammunition.

Background checks were up 300 percent on March 16 compared with the same date a year ago, according to federal data shared with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers. Since Feb. 23, each day has seen roughly double the volume over 2019, according to Mark Oliva, spokesman for the group.




Gun rights advocates say people are buying weapons for protection during the coronavirus pandemic, while critics warn that many new owners lack proper training. (AFP)

“When people aren’t able to provide for their own security or their own safety, they’re going to take measures to make sure that they can. That’s why we have that Second Amendment,” Oliva said. “This is a public safety issue.”

The federal background check system has been overwhelmed by the massive increase in firearm sales. What might normally take a few minutes is taking much longer, and a backlog on background checks has ballooned to about 80,000, Oliva said.

If a background check takes longer than three business days, gun dealers are permitted to allow the sale to go through unless a state has stricter waiting periods. But the National Shooting Sports Foundation has advised gun dealers not to feel beholden to complete the sale if they have concerns about the potential buyer.

“We are cautioning retailers that they may want to exercise patience and prudence,” Oliva said.

Even some gun control advocates say it might not be wise to shut down federally licensed firearms dealers, whose sales require background checks. That could force buyers to use a website or seek a private sale that doesn’t require a check, making it more difficult to trace a firearm if it’s used in a crime.

There are risks to both closing a gun shop or keeping it open, said David Chipman, a retired agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“If you keep it open, there’s the risk of first-time buyers who are largely buying out of fear and panic and untrained,” said Chipman, now senior policy adviser for Giffords, a gun control advocacy group.

Gun control advocates are concerned about a large number of new owners lacking the usual access to training on how to store and handle their weapon properly. They also worry that Americans who are stocking up now eventually will sell their firearms privately.

“If we can imagine how horrible this crisis is ... the people who hoarded the guns might decide six months from now — once they see no zombies around but they’ve run out of tuna and beef jerky — that they need the money to buy food,” Chipman said.

In a number of US cities, including New Orleans, the mayor has issued an emergency proclamation that declares the authority to restrict sales of firearms and ammunition.

In some states that have ordered people to stay home, gun stores were not among the businesses deemed essential and allowed to stay open, like grocery stores.

That has led to confusion in California, where for the second time this week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva ordered gun shops to close, challenging a finding by the legal counsel for the nation’s most populous county that the stores are essential businesses.

David Prince, owner of Eagle Gun Range in Farmers Branch, Texas, near Dallas, had to temporarily close his store under Dallas County’s stay-at-home order, then was allowed to reopen on Wednesday when gun stores were reclassified as essential.

Prince said gun stores are critical because they give people the chance to defend themselves.

“I always knew people were going to want to protect themselves. What I was concerned about was the look in their faces, they are covered in fear,” Prince said. “If I give them the ability to have a firearm, it gives them a fighting chance to defend their family.”

The range that is part of his store is considered nonessential and has been forced to close, meaning new gun buyers can’t use it to train on how to handle their firearm.


Pakistan seeks Arab creditors, China to convert $7.7 bn into long term loans — Hafeez Shaikh

Updated 02 June 2020

Pakistan seeks Arab creditors, China to convert $7.7 bn into long term loans — Hafeez Shaikh

  • Pakistan received $3 billion BoP support from Saudi Arabia, $2 billion from the UAE and $2.2 from China
  • Conversion of short term deposit will provide long term financial stability to the country, say experts

KARACHI: Pakistan is in talks with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China to extend the tenure of their $7.7 billion short term deposits, a move that will ensure long term forex stability of the South Asian nation, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the prime minister’s adviser on finance and revenue, told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
“Last year, when Pakistan was going through the worst balance of payment (BoP) crisis in our history, we were provided financial support by our brotherly countries,” Shaikh said on Monday.
Pakistan’s friendly countries were approached by the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan soon after assuming the office in 2018 as the country’s current account deficit reached $20 billion.
Responding to Pakistan’s call, Saudi Arabia deposited $3 billion while the UAE and China deposited $2 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively. Qatar also contributed by depositing $0.5 billion with Pakistan’s central bank.
“The $7.7 billion secured from the bilateral arrangements provided the much needed balance of payment support to Pakistan,” he added.
“These are short term deposits placed with the central bank in Pakistan at concessional rates,” the PM’s adviser said, adding: “We are in talks with our development partners to move these deposits toward longer tenors.”
Economists say these deposits provided a lifeline to the country’s economy that had higher imports and lower exports.
“The balance of payment support oxygenated the country’s economy that was much need for its survival. The support helped Pakistan not to default on its foreign payment obligations,” Muzzamil Aslam, senior economist, who is familiar with the developments, told Arab News.
Pakistan’s current account deficit (CAD) was $20 billion in 2018 which declined to $13.43 billion during the last fiscal year. Its further decline is also projected for the current fiscal year (2019-20).
“CAD is projected to decline to $4b [or 1.7 percent of the GDP] in the current fiscal year, compared to $20b when the government took office in 2018,” Shaikh said.
The major balance of payment support came from Saudi Arabia which provided $6 billion in financial assistance to Pakistan, with $3 billion in foreign currency support and $3 billion worth of oil on deferred payments. The agreement was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Kingdom in October 2018.
Economists say when Pakistan approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the bailout program, the United States had expressed concerns that the money could be used to pay off debts, especially those taken from China.
“After we started getting the IMF assistance, the fund imposed a condition during the first review of the program to roll over these loans instead of paying them back. This was because the US had misgivings that Pakistan will pay the Chinese debt with the IMF money,” Aslam said.
However, the IMF acknowledged in April that “Bilateral creditors have maintained their exposure in line with debt sustainability objectives of the EFF [Extended Fund Facility].”
China maintained their exposure by renewing $2 billion bilateral deposits in March. Saudi Arabia also refinanced $3 billion BoP support loans that matured in November-January, while the UAE rolled over $1 billion BoP support loans in March. The oil facility with Saudi Arabia – worth $3.2 billion – was activated in August 2019 and has also been providing support to the balance of payments, according to the IMF documents.
Instead of frequent rollovers now, the government wants to convert these short term deposits into long tenors. “The IMF is behind this strategy,” Aslam informed. “The conversion will impact the status of these deposits in a way that loan rates will be decided in line with the international benchmark which may be LIBOR+2-3 percent.”
Economists say the conversion of these deposits will positively impact the economy of the country since Pakistan will get some breathing space and an opportunity to improve its overall financial condition. “It will provide long term forex stability. Otherwise, we will be under pressure to pay back $7.7 billion,” Aslam said.