Should California ban guns
In California, citizens are storming the gun shops
San Francisco was the first city in America to put its citizens under house arrest for the coronavirus. The citizens stock up on food - and weapons.
The announcement hits us out of the blue: From midnight, San Francisco and the entire Bay Area will be under house arrest due to the corona virus. The mayor announced this on Monday at noon. Initially, the 7 million residents should stay within their own four walls for three weeks if possible and avoid other people. This "shelter in place" instruction is not a complete lockdown, you can leave the house for sports and shopping even without written permission - but even such a call has never been made in the United States.
I read the first few sentences of the message on my cell phone and jump off the desk chair. "We have to go to the supermarket now," I call out to my partner, who has also been working in the home office for a few days. Shopping was planned for the evening anyway, but then it could be too late. In fact, the cars are already jammed in front of the entrance to the supermarket until the next block, people with shopping bags under their arms run in the same direction. Security guards only let those waiting into the shop in batches. Inside, I walk through the aisles with my mouth open: pasta, rice, water, flour, everything is sold out. At the refrigerated shelves, customers load entire pallets of eggs into their trolleys, five dozen at a time. In a country where supermarkets are mostly open around the clock, people suddenly fear for their meals.
Corona panic in time lapse
Something similar is happening in the USA these days as in Europe, but in fast motion. Five days before the house arrest, no sporting or cultural events were canceled, and there is no entry ban for Europeans. But the speed at which Covid-19 is spreading in the Old World is alarming Americans - nowhere more than in Northern California. The Bay Area was one of the earliest epicentres of Covid-19, and protecting public health is the responsibility of state and local governments.
As of Thursday there were 70 cases of illness in San Francisco - but that says little because there are hardly any tests for the coronavirus. Governor Gavin Newsom expects more than half of the 40 million Californians to contract the coronavirus in the next eight weeks and extended house arrest to the entire state on Thursday evening. All schools are closed until the end of August, the "proms" - the high school graduation balls so popular in the USA - have been canceled, as have the university graduation ceremonies.
36 hours after being house arrested in San Francisco, I'm standing in front of a gun shop in Pacifica, a suburb of San Francisco. City Arms is supposed to call it a day in 30 minutes - but the line of people waiting still stretches across the parking lot. They are exclusively men, some wear face masks, and all keep a safe distance from the person in front. Because of the corona virus, only six customers could enter at the same time, it says on a sign at the entrance. They are all first-time buyers, tell the three men who are allowed to go into the store next; in the almost three hours that they have been waiting, they have got to know each other a little. "I don't trust the government that they can get the Corona crisis under control," says one of them, a squat with close-cropped hair. «Chaos will break out and panic like in the supermarkets. I have to be able to defend myself if that happens. "
He had wanted to buy a gun for years, and the coronavirus crisis had finally prompted him to do so. The Asian man next to him nods. Then they talk shop about which weapon is the best: a shotgun is better for aiming, the Glock, in turn, is the Honda of the pistols, in other words like a reliable and mass-produced car. But the caliber has to be big enough, says the squat - "you need something that will bring the attacker down immediately, even if he's big and vigilant."
The picture is similar in gun stores across California. They were currently doing the business of their lives, several shopkeepers told the San Francisco Chronicle that their supplies were sold out. "People feel that they have to be ready to defend their homes if the coronavirus gets serious," the newspaper quoted a seller from Sunnyvale as saying.
It is unclear, however, whether gun shops are allowed to be open at all at the moment - according to the curfew, only “essential shops” are allowed to be open. This includes cannabis stores in California, but gun stores too? Corresponding inquiries from the local newspaper to the police authorities went unanswered.
Grocery deliveries fully booked
In the city center, the streets are more crowded than one would expect at times of house arrest - but the citizens keep a good distance from one another. A noticeable number of people jog or take their dog for a walk - unfortunately, because a friend who earned her money as a dog walker lost almost all of her customers in one fell swoop. Many passers-by wear face masks, and I also had one in the closet - a holdover from the time of the severe forest fires a year and a half ago that covered the whole of San Francisco in smoke for days.
For many of the 45,000 Lyft and Uber drivers who commute through the Bay Area every day, house arrest is an economic disaster - but many are switching to Uber Eats food deliveries, which are now in demand. Food deliveries like the one Amazon is offering suddenly seem like a godsend - only that the services are so overloaded that deliveries for the next few weeks have not been booked for days. The online giant is now looking to hire 100,000 additional employees across the country to cope with increased demand.
In one respect, nothing has changed in San Francisco: Countless homeless people are still sitting on the sidewalks across the city or lying in doorways. Around 9,000 people live in San Francisco without a permanent residence. For them, the request to house arrest should seem like a mockery, especially since there are now fewer passers-by who donate something. The existing emergency shelters are now taking in fewer people in order to comply with social distancing.
For decades, both Democratic and Republican governments in California have tried to solve the problem of homelessness. The corona pandemic could now ironically help: Governor Gavin Newsom has announced that he will rent hotel and motel rooms and buy 1,300 caravans to get those of the 108,000 homeless people who show symptoms of the disease off the street. The state has provided 150 million dollars for this. Churches and schools, which are currently empty anyway, are to be transformed into shelters for the homeless. In addition, evictions from private and commercial housing have been banned this week to prevent defaulting tenants from losing their homes.
What is currently working well in the Bay Area would never work in rural America, a friend from Montana assures me. We meet for a walk in the evening, we walk through the empty streets at a safe distance. "In Montana, the citizens would take up arms if the state ordered them to be house arrested," she says with conviction. The Americans in "Heartland" love their freedom too much - and the skepticism towards the government is too great. Her mother asks her every day to leave the "epicenter" of San Francisco and come home. But it should only be a matter of time before the rest of the country switches to crisis mode.
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