To say that the COVID-19 pandemic indelibly changed the face of American gun ownership is something of an understatement; there is so much that we know now that we didn't know way back when the lockdowns first began. Eighteen months ago, I made some observations about how there were a few unexpected "self-defense silver linings" to be found in social-distancing mandates. Have those observations held true in the face of two years that redefined the word "unprecedented"? According to my own scorecard, the answers are "pretty much," "not really" and "here's the one I missed."
The 6' Mandate
Last May: "It is now normal and expected to leave a 6' distance between ourselves and strangers. One of the best ways to determine whether or not a stranger who has approached you has good intentions is is to observe whether he or she observes social norms, or violates them ... And what's one of the most 'popular' ways for a criminal to violate a social norm? Invading your space."
Today: Although most of the country has abandoned gathering-size restrictions and many businesses have stopped trying to enforce that 6' rule, the fact is that Americans seem to like having a little extra breathing room. If you observe the behavior of your fellow citizens in public, you'll notice that people are still cutting one another fairly wide berths. What's more, if you feel crowded, it remains completely socially acceptable to ask others to back off and give you some space. So much so, in fact, that bystanders will usually back you up. More space equals more reaction time for you, and these new social norms make everything easier for women self-defenders. Verdict: Pretty much.
Last May: "When we're all wearing masks that obscure our noses and mouths, we're forced to focus on the eyes when we engage someone else. This can actually reveal more than it conceals, because it makes it much easier to tell when someone is genuinely smiling and when they're faking it. A 'real' smile—also called a Duchenne smile—causes the corners of the eyes to crinkle into 'crow's feet.' A 'fake' smile only engages the muscles of the mouth ... being aware of the subtle differences between the things people say and their expression when they say it is a highly underrated situational-awareness strategy."
Today: Although all of the above is true, and face masks do force you to focus on a person's eyes to the exclusion of all else, it's hard to say that the mask mandates did much to boost anyone's situational awareness. The truth is that if you're standing more than 6' away from someone, things like crow's feet aren't always easy to see. What's more, the masks also muffle speech to varying degrees depending upon the speaker. This reduces the amount of information we're getting about our environment, and that's never a boost to personal awareness. Verdict: Not really.
The One I Missed
Last May: "Those who prey on women have already begun taking advantage of women who are exercising alone in the outdoors because their local gym is closed. Here's an example from California; another from Pima County, Arizona; and here's one from right here in the NRA's backyard. It's a scary trend."
Today: Human nature being what it is, there will always be violent crime, and that means that there will always be violent crime against women. However, there's something happening right here, right now, that has permanently changed the face of armed self-defense in America for the better, and it's all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There's no need to repeat the figures about how many guns were purchased in 2020-2021; that has been covered extensively elsewhere. The figure that affects you and me, the NRA Women of the 21st century, is this one: 3.5 million new women gun owners. (That number is six months old; even though the pandemic panic buying has slowed of late, it's still going strong. It wouldn't be out of line to suggest that the figure is as high as 3.75 million new women gun owners now.)
Every single new woman gun owner represents a woman who refuses to be a victim, and that's fantastic news on an individual level. But there's more: Every single news article that covers all of these new women gun owners delivers fantastic news on a society-wide level. Publicity is deterrence to America's evildoers. One of the things that criminals fear the most—often far more than prison—is a "victim" who is prepared to fight back with lethal force. Criminals are now on notice that there are more armed women than ever before ... and as it turns out, we're probably better shots than they are. Verdict: More, please.