Gun sales rocket across US amid coronavirus fears

‘People are stocking up on guns and ammo to protect themselves in case things go south’

 

When Antoun Alain visited the Shoot Point Blank Range and Store in Delaware County, Ohio last Monday night, he did not expect to find himself waiting in line for 90 minutes. The queue of customers lining up to buy guns and ammunition snaked from the cash register, past cabinets displaying a variety of hand guns, to the opposite end of the store.

“I saw earlier that people are stocking up on guns and ammo to protect themselves from any upcoming disaster and [in case] things go south,” says the student from Columbus, the state capital. “I overheard people saying that they’re afraid that if food shortage occurs and people lose their jobs as a result of a likely upcoming recession, that people would go violent and start stealing and breaking into homes to get food.”

It’s a scene being replicated right across the US. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are buying up guns in numbers not seen for years. From California to New York people have been seen lining up for hours to arm themselves, some queuing outside gun stores before they open, despite public health officials in multiple states warning citizens against all but essential travel. Reports suggest President Donald Trump’s state of emergency declaration on March 13th spurred thousands to head to their nearest gun store.

But some gun sellers say the surge began well before then. Transactions at Ammo. com, an online weapons store, increased 222 per cent between February 23rd and March 15th compared to the previous 22 days.

“Instead of same-day shipping, it’s taking an average of two to three business days to completely process, package, and ship items,” a statement on its website reports. States such as Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi saw ammunition sales – chiefly in 9mm bullets – increase by several thousand per cent. AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are among the leading selling models.

Mass shooting

Americans own an estimated 393 million guns, a figure set to rise as the virus spreads in the coming weeks and months. Two in five Americans either own a gun or live in a household that has arms; according to a Pew Research poll, 62 per cent of gun owners report owning a rifle.

Previous spikes in gun sales have typically followed mass shooting events, when gun owners and advocates feared the introduction of new laws restricting their sale and use. Many such proposals, however, have stalled in recent months and years at the state and federal levels.

Alain says he felt the need to buy a gun to protect himself and his house and family. Ammunition for 9mm handguns at the Delaware county store he visited this week were out of stock and he observed a large number of women buying guns and ammunition before heading to an adjacent shooting range to practice.

“The salesman told me that they sold more weapons in a week than what they usually sell in about six months,” he says. “After seeing the demand in weapons and ammunition, I felt like things are going to get serious and that I should be prepared for any upcoming scenario.”

‘Out of shotguns’

Gun stores in states experiencing the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak, such as New York, are also reporting high sales.

At the Good Guys Guns & Ammo store in Nanuet, New York a phone call is answered by “I’m sorry sir, we’ve got a line going out the door.” Calls to several other gun stores in New York state went unanswered.

Mike, a store manager at New England Sportswear in White Plains, New York which sells gun and ammunition as well as police, fire and EMS uniforms, says: “Put it this way: I’m out of shotguns, I’m out of rifles; I’m almost out of ammunition.” He adds that 12-gauge shotguns are the most popular model with buyers.

The store has been open more than 25 years, but he has never seen anything like what’s transpired in recent days. “In the last week, we’ve sold more guns and ammunition than in the last three months.”

Customers have been orderly and relaxed but Mike admits: “I don’t know how long this chaos is going to last,” adding it will take about a week to resupply the store. “I don’t think that there’s cause for this kinda scare.”

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