Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.
Last week I took a mind to head to the pistol range for some practice. After a quick assessment of my current inventory of ammunition, it was clear that I had let it dwindle to the point of needing replenishment. I headed to the store to stock up only to find the shelves stripped bare. All told, I went to five stores that day for ammunition. One store had five boxes that had just arrived but would only sell two of them to me. The fifth store would sell me more, but it cost me almost twice the normal price. Clearly, something is going on.
Earlier this year, a friend approached me about advice on a weapon to carry concealed. A quick search of the internet will find very strong and contradictory opinions on this topic and I certainly have my own thoughts after carrying a weapon for the majority of my adult life. My friend had used a gun before but did not currently own one. However, with the civil unrest, defunding of law enforcement, and general anarchy roiling our nation, my friend thought it was time strengthen his defensive posture for himself and his family.
My friend is not alone. I also sat in a class for concealed carry holders this month and it was packed. One older lady in the class had taken her first handgun class the week prior. A middle- aged couple had long guns already, but had decided to get their licenses to carry concealed. According to the instructor, he has never been so busy as the past few months. The statistics about the incredible rise in gun ownership have been on display for months and much of it is being driven by people who are buying their first gun for the purpose of defending themselves. They have lost confidence in our government to maintain order.
2020 is proving to be a fulcrum year where events are shifting our society and culture in ways yet unknown. The swiftness with which our government stripped us of our rights in an overreaction to a public health concern at the same time that fascist mobs are given license to maraud by the very same government has shocked the sensibilities of many Americans and undermined some of the principles that have cemented our nation’s foundation since its inception. As our society shifts, it will be seen in what people do — not what they say. One thing they are doing is buying a lot of guns.
Another thing that many more people are doing is moving out of cities to more suburban and rural areas. This movement would be a reversal of recent migration patterns. The reasons are myriad. Coronavirus has made some people realize that urban living is a perfect environment for the spread of diseases at the same time that the widespread closures of cultural attractions has diminished the allure of city living. When one combines that with the increase in violence and crime that many cities are suffering, it is easy to see why a young family might choose to look elsewhere to raise their children.
Another enabler of city flight is the move to virtual work. Coronavirus shoved many workers from their offices into their homes. The shock of that movement is over, and many businesses are finding that remote workers are just as productive without the need of providing a large office complex or amenities. Furthermore, virtual workers reduce the potential liability and disruption of a disease outbreak. Right now, many businesses are having to shut down their offices if a single employee tests positive for COVID-19. That is not a risk with virtual employees.
Helpfully for the businesses, many workers found that they enjoyed, or could tolerate, working virtually even if they had not previously thought so. REI has already decided to abandon its eight acre office campus in Washington state in favor of smaller offices and a much larger remote workforce. In Wisconsin, Epic Systems faced an employee revolt when they attempted to force workers back to their desks in Epic’s massive office. Northwestern Mutual’s brand new office tower in downtown Milwaukee sits almost empty and may never reach capacity. The trend of large office campuses and towers is being supplanted by home offices and virtual backgrounds. This trend also makes it economical for knowledge workers to seek communities with a bit more elbow room and less crime.
Societal shifts take years to unfold. The decision to buy a gun can be done quickly, but moving one’s family to a new community may take months or years. As 2020 has shown us, our society can shift very quickly, but America in 2025 looks like it is going to be more suburban, more virtual, and abundantly armed.