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Coronavirus decisions: guns or generosity

The choices we make during the COVID-19 pandemic say a lot about society as a whole.

We can strip the grocery store shelves bare, leaving little for those who don’t have the resources to stockpile. We can load up on guns and ammo.

Or we can volunteer to deliver meals to the elderly and disabled. We can buy gift cards at our local restaurants and retail businesses. We can donate to the community food bank.

Maybe it’s the plethora of zombie apocalypse shows on TV that is driving this bunker mentality. Yes, people need to be smart: stay home if at all possible, wash hands, sanitize surfaces and practice social distancing — but fights over toilet paper? We’re better than that, I thought.

We will look back after the pandemic has run its course — and it will run its course — and then pass judgement on our actions. Will we be proud of our behavior or ashamed? After reading this NPR report, I’m leaning toward the latter:   

“Some people come in and they just want an AR-15. They don’t care what the brand is,” (an Oklahoma gun shop owner) says. “They just want the cheapest one.”

He says gun sales are up about 20%, but ammunition sales have really skyrocketed between 400% to 500%.

Perhaps I’m forming the wrong opinion about humankind. The post preceding this one, written by state Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, has a more upbeat message profiling acts of kindness.

“Yes, our better angels are emerging. Neighbors are delivering groceries to neighbors. Volunteers are distributing food kid packs. Friends are calling friends. Non-profits are rising to this emergency. The Friendship Center, Food Share, YWCA, Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Way and others are doing what they do best in times of crisis—serve others.”

However, a post by ProPublica immediately preceding Rep. Dunwell’s is the story of Republican Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who…

…unload(ed) between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 29 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

A week after his sale of stock, Burr reassured the American people not to panic and, “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” That’s easy to say when you have the inside track to financial upheavals, and a guaranteed salary and health care.

Are there more good Samaritans out there than gun hoarding hermits? More dedicated public servants than corrupt Senators? We can only hope, although in the Trump era I have my doubts.

Closer to home, despite the vast differences of opinion I have with many Montanans over politics and policy, I hold most people living in our state in high regard: always willing to help a neighbor, even a stranger, in times of distress, often at their own personal peril. Please, Montanans, don’t let me down.

I understand the innate impulse to protect ourselves, our family. It’s at the core of our being. But may Rep. Dunwell’s “our better angels are emerging” take precedence over aggravated armed mayhem.




If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Armed mayhem will be when people start harvesting the antelope from Castle Rock Park, near peoples yards?

    Montanans won’t go hungry.

  • Oh, poor Pete. I might have known you’d fall victim to this virus. I could have warned you … it came into this country hiding under the on/off buttons of TV remote control devices. Had you never turned on your set, you would have avoided it.

    Better you spend your time auditing one of Don’s english classes, where he teaches impressionable young minds how not to think properly. As it is you’ve been absorbed in an induced panic. You’re in a state of anxiety brought about by a bug for which they have no test to see if it is present, that has never been isolated or purified, that has not passed the rigor of Koch’s Postulates, of which you’ve no clue. Short answer: It does not exist.

    I am going to slip you the answer, though it is much like offering an child a mathematical formula when the child has barely studied arithmetic: The number of people infected and who have died from Covid-19: 0, 0.

    Before you delete my comment and ban me, just understand that I bear you or Don no ill will. I sit on a high grassy knoll observing the madness of our news-driven idiocracy. I can only reach a few, and you are not among them. Peace, brothers.

  • I was born and raised in Montana, and have many, many times seen generosity for others. Like the man who helped me change a flat tire on a remote road in the woods one time. I believe we Montanans are a different type of person and that neighbors will be seen helping neighbors throughout the state, while still keeping our own safety in mind. And most of us have plenty of room to stay safe. I’m proud to be a Montanan in these times.

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