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Debrief: What We Learned From the COVID-19 Crisis

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Now that states are beginning to open back up, it is time to step back and assess what responsibly armed Americans can learn from the COVID-19 shutdown.

I am not here to discuss “how bad it was” or “how bad it wasn’t” or what was or was not necessary — that’s for other times and places. This is strictly about what lessons in the realm of personal protection and preparedness we can glean from the few months between when the coronavirus hit and when the riots began. (THAT will be a different debrief for a different time.)

COVID Was Dry a Run

This shutdown was not in response to the Yellowstone Caldera finally erupting or the New Madrid Fault finally heaving-to. The electricity was still flowing, water was still coming out of the tap, and the concern was whether the stores would be out of toilet paper, not whether there would be any food to eat. No, you might not have been able to get the brand of frozen pizza you were accustomed to buying. But fortunately, actual food was still basically free in this country, and no one starved to death.

Almost as importantly, the aforementioned running water not only meant that one of your most fundamental needs as a human was being met but also that there were none of the nightmares incumbent to no functioning sewage disposal systems. The hospitals did not get overrun to the point of collapse. There were no fuel shortages, nor was anyone any colder than they usually were in February or March. This was a rather benign way for those who could be considered “preparedness-minded” to take a tenth-speed lap around the track and see if plans were even slightly actionable. Most everyone who had plans and supplies in place in January passed this test, but as far as tests went, emergency-wise this wasn’t much of one.

Some People Don’t Need Much of a Push

As plenty of responsibly armed Americans already knew, there is no shortage of individuals in this country who are about half a dozen slight inconveniences away from attacking whoever’s next to them. And remember, this was not in a time of dire shortages or nationwide need. It wasn’t even an earthquake that broke water pipes and dropped power lines to a few cities. It was a few months in which it was slightly harder to get certain goods … and some people went nuts. Take that as a warning: Long lines for toilet paper were more than enough to drive some people to irrationality. If everything that you saw going down was over the last package of Charmin, picture what might happen when the fight’s over something of greater consequence — like baby formula or insulin. Which brings us to a very specific and very important fact to remember, regardless of where you live…

It’s Never Immediate — It’s Always a Slow Slide

Never forget that what you think of as “society” never goes from everything normal one day to people dressed like Vikings on motorcycles fighting over water and gasoline the next. It’s a slow slide; the grocery store goes from normal to crowded to tense to somewhere you never go at night. The gas station goes from normal to crowded to suddenly ringed with a chain-link fence and with entrances and exits manned by National Guardsmen. It’s never overnight, and if you play your cards right, you’ll be able to stay out ahead of the curve.

As a responsible defender, your best course of action is always avoidance. The next time something like this happens, make sure that you already have measures in place that allow you to just stay home. When there’s a riot at the grocery store, refuse to participate. Do what you can to give yourself and your loved ones the option of locking the doors and truly sheltering in place. Keep at least a few weeks’ stock of everything you use in a day. Afford yourself that defensive course of action. If everything goes perfectly, you won’t be shooting anyone. If everything goes similarly perfectly, you and everyone for whom you are “Capital-R Responsible” will be kept healthy and eating at least three times a day.

Some People Grew Up — At Least For a While

Certain citizens learned that guns aren’t important until they’re important. My main regret of the COVID/gun situation is that, though I hope all of those who ran out and bought their first firearms will become supporters of the Second Amendment, I am not expecting that to be the case. In my experience, a good number of them will be the same people who, in a few months, will be telling news reporters that, “As a gun owner, I think guns are way too easy to get.” (Didn’t you always wonder where people like that came from?)

A Lot of True Colors Got Revealed

Depending on your location, it became clear that your local or state government did not prioritize you, the law-abiding citizen. Certain municipalities were releasing inmates — violent inmates — back into communities and strictly enforcing new rules about you always standing at least 6 feet away from another innocent person. Say whatever you will about the guidelines and hastily passed ordinances. But never, ever forget that certain elected and appointed officials took this as an opportunity to show how much more they cared about criminals than they cared about you.

What Exactly Is ‘Emergency Gear?’

Interestingly enough, some “emergency preparedness” enthusiasts found that their stores of “emergency supplies” were lacking in certain areas. As it turns out, it’s not that you shouldn’t keep multiple rappelling ropes and harnesses, rigid-hull inflatable attack crafts and Kevlar helmets on hand. It’s that you are much more likely to have to continue doing everything you were already doing every day while mitigating the disaster you’re facing. For example, it quickly became apparent to many heads of households that all of the toilet paper that they and theirs were usually using at work and school was now going to get used at home.

Fortunately, everyone wound up doing a lot less shooting than some folks plan for in their “emergency gear.” Stuff like meds, extra prescription glasses, toilet paper and food became a lot more important than the few cases of rounds most responsible folks had stashed under the bed. And I hope this is a lesson that sticks. Speaking of supplies…

Embrace ‘The Carrier Model’

A good number of Americans got their first tastes of appetite fatigue and boredom, the former being getting tired of eating the same thing over and over and the latter being … well … boredom. Both are entirely preventable, but only if you acknowledge that they can quickly become serious issues.

I once heard that American aircraft carriers stock enough coffee for something like a pot per sailor per day. I’m probably remembering the numbers wrong, but the lesson stands: If you’re spending $13,000,000,000 on a ship, why skimp on the stuff that’s going to make a positive daily difference to the individuals crewing it? How much time do you think those sailors spend launching ordnance compared to the time they spend discharging far more mundane duties — duties that are made far more bearable and that they discharge far more exactly and enthusiastically with the help of unlimited access to coffee and, if you trust those who’ve had it, the best chow in the U.S. Military?

In the world of emergency preparedness, comfort foods, long books you haven’t read and stuff you know your kids will like are almost as important as toilet contingencies and potable water. To get back to our carrier analogy, if everything goes right, you’ll be spending a lot more time drinking coffee and squinting at clipboards than launching ordnance.

We Make Do

More so than anything, the biggest lesson that we can take away from the whole situation is that Americans, as a people, are capable of a lot more than they think. The reaction to this virus was financially devastating for millions of citizens, and the damage that was done to thousands of businesses and families will be tough to bounce back from.

But bounce back we always do, and we have to take what everyone learned over the last few months and move ahead with it. There isn’t a single American who won’t find something from this unfortunate setback that he or she won’t be able to apply to his or her personal journey toward becoming a more independent, better-prepared individual. And if even half of the population makes a conscious effort to do so, then I think we could honestly say that it wasn’t all for nothing.

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