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The National Rifle Association (NRA) published a video this weekend showing Carletta Whiting, a breast-cancer survivor said to have a fibromyalgia-related disability, outlining her reasons for possessing firearms during the coronavirus pandemic -- and it didn't take long for a top Senate Democrat to call the message "sickening."
The flare-up highlighted the ongoing disputes between some municipalities seeking to restrict Second Amendment rights, and others arguing that times of crisis were precisely the moments when gun rights needed to be protected.
Police departments in major cities, including Philadelphia, already have abandoned making arrests for various offenses. New Orleans and other jurisdictions have assumed the power to ban gun transfers.
"What's in my control is how I defend myself if things go from bad to worse," Whiting said, before firing a 9MM round from her AR-9 rifle. "I know from history how quickly society breaks down during a crisis, and we've never faced anything like this before, and never is the Second Amendment more important than during public unrest."
Whiting noted that "even liberals in California" were "lining up because they know the government will not be able to protect them." In mid-March, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) experienced a threefold jump in background-application processing compared to the same time period last year.
Several states, meanwhile, also have reported dramatic upticks in gun purchases. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced last week it had received over 14,000 background checks for firearm purchases in the preceding week, and only 7,000 in the same period in 2019. And, Virginia State Police saw 64,000 background check requests in February, compared to 39,300 last February.
Nevertheless, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., slammed the video, and suggested that the NRA was urging gun-owners to avoid stockpiling food and other resources. In the video, Whiting argued that stockpiling only food alone was not sufficient.
"Mainstream gun owners have left the NRA, so now they’re reduced to telling people to stockpile assault weapons, instead of food, to get ready for the coming Coronavirus civil war," Murphy tweeted. "So sickening."
In response, the NRA called Murphy's attack disingenuous, and part of a larger effort by Democrats to undermine gun rights.
"Sen. Murphy is either being intentionally disingenuous or is obtuse," the NRA's director of media relations, Amy Hunter, told Fox News. "Carletta Whiting is one of millions of Americans who feel vulnerable and who know that when crime happens, the police are minutes away — despite their best intentions.
"Right now, anti-gun politicians are using the pandemic to try and strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights," Hunter continued. "Meanwhile, gun sales are increasing because good people are worried their government won't be able to protect them. This is when Americans rely on their Second Amendment rights the most."
There has been some concern that the national supply of firearms and ammunition may not be able to meet the growing demand.
"Firearm retailers and manufacturers were not prepared to meet the surge or a sustained long-term demand, so firearms and ammunition will seem to be largely absent from dealer shelves for weeks to come," cautioned Eric Poole, the editor of Guns and Ammo magazine. "If firearm and ammunition manufacturers throughout the U.S. are required to keep their workforce at home, this will have a more profound effect and drive up prices, to include private transfers of firearms and ammunition, which are not monitored or recorded by the NICS system."
Interviews conducted by Fox News in recent days with several gun store owners and sellers indicated that sales this month, on average, have spiked anywhere between 30 and 400 percent, compared with a "normal" time period. In addition to a jump in guns and ammunition sales, requests for body armor also have accelerated in some places.
For many people, this week has marked the first time they have bought a firearm.
"I just got a 9mm handgun this week," John McEvoy, 34, from Idaho, said. "As this situation continues to unfold, I predict that crime rates are going to increase. If food and basic necessities start to run out, I don't want to be the victim of a break-in and not be prepared to protect myself and my family."
Fox News' Hollie McKay contributed to this report.