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Anxiety About COVID-19 Fuels Worry, Causes Panic

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The coronavirus — COVID-19 — is causing personal hardship and wreaking havoc on the economy of states and localities across the U.S. At this time, the medical toll of the virus has been relatively minimal in our country, but the measures taken to slow the virus — or “flatten the curve” — have had substantial impact on our day-to-day lives.

Governors, mayors and other politicians across the country have issued orders to close schools, shut down businesses, postpone elections, ban church services and other gatherings, and strongly encourage people to stay home. These measures are all designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the impact on our lives has been palpable, and the rapid-fire reactions have caused growing anxiety in many areas across the country. 

Anxiety can sometimes become panic as people assume things might be going from bad to worse. This was on display yesterday in my home state of Ohio when new orders announced by our governor triggered a major reaction at central Ohio’s largest gun store: Vance Outdoors, located in the Columbus suburb of Obetz.

A Little Background

Sales volume at all three locations of Vance Outdoors has been high recently. The stores have experienced extremely heavy traffic for the past two weeks as COVID-19 has dominated the national media. One Vance employee at the Obetz location said that it had been like a Black Friday sale every day, with waits for the completion of gun sales ranging from two and a half to more than three hours from the time a ticket is taken.

Yesterday, March 16, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the forced closure of all gyms, health clubs, bowling alleys, waterparks, recreation centers, movie theaters and trampoline parks. He said he will be ordering day care centers to close statewide and that the March 17 statewide primary election might also be postponed.

Shortly after that news broke, Vance Outdoors posted an online announcement saying that, due to the incredibly high volume of traffic in the store, it had to “temporarily suspend all new online orders” but that “existing orders [would] still be fulfilled.” Panic quickly set in amongst customers, and people began to fear that Gov. DeWine’s next order would be to close all non-essential businesses, including Vance.

Panic Sets In

At 5 p.m., the Vance website announced that new customers would no longer be allowed into the store for the rest of the day, as it was too crowded. This caused even more concern that customers would not get their orders or otherwise be helped. The mood turned so intense that Obetz police had to be called to maintain order. Store workers were concerned for their own safety as well as that of their customers.

This event was unprecedented. This type of unrest had never occurred in any Vance Outdoors store (I am not aware of it occurring previously in ANY gun store in Ohio) — until now. It’s possible that the incident was fueled by a rumor that West Virginia gun sales were about to be limited or even suspended and by fear that a similar action could quickly spread to other states.

These things can happen when citizens start seeing restrictions and believe their constitutional liberties are being infringed. People in Ohio, and likely across the United States, are anxious, stressed and angry. But that does not have to grow into panic or panic-buying or violence at places of business. Cooler heads must prevail.

Fortunately, this time no one was hurt. 

In the days ahead, please be more vigilant than ever. As I’m fond of saying, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And do not inflame or escalate already tense situations. A little patience will go a long way toward defusing potential violence. If you can’t de-escalate such a situation, simply walk away. The best fight is the one you are not in. These are stressful times, and responsibly armed Americans should be counted on to do the right thing.

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