A few of my friends and acquaintances have recently asked me this question. The more I think about it, I think that is actually only part of a larger question about preparedness and there isn't an easy answer. Owning a weapon is a personal decision - now, just as it is when we aren't in a time of societal crisis. The difficulty at this particular point in time is that you are a little late reaching that decision (like thousands of others), and the recent run on gun stores and ammo outlets has put you solidly behind the curve. The FBI has been overwhelmed the past few days with firearms-purchaser background checks 300% over already record levels. If you can find a suitable defensive firearm in your local stores, good luck finding a supply of ammunition for it, as the last 2 days have seen an incredible sell-out of the common ammo calibers like .223/5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO and Russian, and all the pistol calibers like 9mm, .38, .40, and .45.
Dr. Abraham Maslow gave us the answer a long time ago with his Hierarchy of Needs.
The convenience of modern society, the bounty that we have enjoyed as a blessing of capitalism, our Nation's plentiful natural resources, and of course the creation of profound debt, has sheltered people from reality with a brittle, paper-thin façade of stability, safety, and security.
Psychological needs have been artificially fulfilled over the last decade or so by Social Media. It has allowed people to feel a sense of self-esteem and even the opportunity for fame without the need for actual accomplishment. Tribalism and "othering" have created a sense of belonging without the need for in-person interaction.
The summit of the pyramid - self actualization - seems to be vestigial in most people anymore. Our vital spirit has been constrained by the 40-hour work week. It has been exploited by employers no longer satisfied with our effort but hungry for our body and soul. Our spirit must be concealed on account of the incredulity and jealousy of our peers. It is trodden down by the prosaic media and politics of the day, or dulled by constant dopamine hits or escapism in substance abuse. Devoid of spirit, self-actualization is hopelessly out of reach for most of the population.
In the past week, the lullaby of safety and security has vanished like a puff of smoke. The designs of power-hungry politicians have been laid bare, and the fragility of civilization has been revealed by empty grocery shelves and fistfights over toilet paper. As a whole, society's psyche's have come crashing down the pyramid straight to the realization that basic needs are no longer guaranteed and the instinct to stockpile has set in. We are experiencing what the economists call "shortage," (a condition where the quantity demanded is greater than the quantity supplied at the market price). But once the refrigerator and pantry are stuffed with junk food, and the bathroom cupboards are overflowing with toilet paper, it dawns on people, maybe for the first time: "how do I hold on to what I have?" "How do I keep someone else from taking away what belongs to me - maybe by force?" Complicating the matter are cowardly local tyrants making power grabs through expanded emergency measures to close down businesses, and limit the distribution of fuel, alcohol, firearms, and ammunition, adding the economic factor of "scarcity," (consumer demand for previously unwanted resources increases due to changing preferences or newly discovered uses). Driven, not just by the perception of what we think we will actually need, but also by the fear that we might not be able to get it if we do need it, the panic buying really takes off. Thus, people who were habitually in the "white" side of the spectrum on Colonel Cooper's Combat Mindset Color Code have been forcibly shoved through the yellow and orange stages of "aware" and "alert," directly into the red stage of "alarm," stripping all the gears in-between. And at long last the sheep feel their teeth and notice them blunted from years of comfortably chewing on grass, and wonder if it is time to sharpen them back up.
So, welcome to the club. Maybe you are a little late getting here. Maybe you were one of those who didn't understand people who spent their time and money on preparedness in the gentle summer, let's not dwell on that. What matters is you are here now and those of us who have been doing this for a while are concerned for you - because you are more of a liability than an asset right now. You are more dangerous to yourself, your family, and to the responsibly armed community than you are to criminals, looters, marauders, and tyrants. If you are willing to accept this - we can fix it - together.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you are contemplating becoming a new gun owner. If you haven't fully committed to what that means, I might suggest you aren't ready yet. You can't just look at the investment of the firearm. You have to look at putting together some basic range gear - hearing and eye protection, probably a few sets; a cleaning kit; accessories like holsters, slings, optics... extra magazines and ammunition; most importantly some competent training. By training, I mean an actual class with a real instructor, not just a range session with your friend/brother/uncle/etc... who was in the army or a cop or security guard. That really isn't helpful and friends or family members are more interested in you having a good time than actually pushing you outside of your comfort zone in the ways required for you to actually learn anything. "I grew up around guns" - something I hear all the time from people who are unimpressive with their firearms.
So, what is the answer to "Should I buy a gun?" As I said, that is an incomplete question. Regardless of the crisis du jour, the next plague or election, the next gun ban or ammo shortage - it is a personal decision - part of a larger decision. What you should be asking yourself instead is: "am I willing to be armed." Being armed is not only having the tools, but committing to gaining and maintaining the skills and mindset to effectively use them.