Mounting fears over the potential spread of the coronavirus has sparked a surge in gun and ammunition sales across the United States, several outlets have reported.
As if fighting long lines at the grocery store weren’t enough, many Americans now are choosing to queue up outside their local gun shops to get their hands on the lethal weapons, especially amid the threat of possible social unrest.
Larry Hyatt, who owns one of the country’s largest gun stores, Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, said this new, sudden rush to purchase guns is unprecedented, telling The Guardian, “This is only the second time in my 61 years of business that we’ve seen anything like this.” The first time, he said, was after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2002.
“We’re experiencing a massive rush to buy guns and ammunition as people feel the need to protect themselves and their families,” Hyatt added, noting an uptick in demand for target guns and semi-automatic assault-style rifles.
Gun shops on the West Coast, including Martin B Retting, Inc. in Culver City, California, are experiencing a similar surge in sales with long lines of customers wrapped around the block. A growing number of coronavirus cases across the nation has even brought out first-time gun buyers, as described by Gabriel Vaughn, the owner of Sportsman’s Arms in Petaluma, California.
“People who tell me they don’t like guns, but they’re here to begrudgingly buy one,” Vaughn told local station KTVU-TV. “And if it makes somebody feel safe and they’re legal to own one, then sure.”
Recent figures put out by online ammunition dealer Ammo.com showed that between Feb. 23 and March 4, the company saw a 68 percent increase in sales compared to the previous 11-day period. The sales were especially high in North Carolina and Georgia, soaring 179 percent and 169 percent, respectively, according to a company press release.
Pennsylvania (140 percent), Texas (128 percent) and Florida (76 percent) also experienced a considerable boost.
“We know certain things impact ammo sales — mostly political events or economic instability when people feel their rights may end up infringed,” Ammo.com marketing manager Alex Horsman said in a statement, “But this is our first experience with a virus leading to such a boost in sales.
Still, Horsman said the gun rush isn’t all that surprising.
“It makes sense,” he said. “A lot of our customers like to be prepared. And for many of them, it’s not just facemasks and TheraFlu. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, they can keep themselves and their families safe.”
One Los Angeles man told Australia’s Nine News that concern over civil unrest is especially prevalent in “low-income neighborhoods” as food and resources become more scarce.
Meanwhile, other Americans are stocking up on guns for other reasons: racism and xenophobia. Nonprofit news outlet The Trace, which is devoted to highlighting the gun violence epidemic in America, reported that the gun sales boost has been buoyed, in part, by Asian Americans fearing they could face racial violence.
The first cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, China late last year. Since, the virus has infected well over 150,000 people worldwide.
Local gun seller Dennis Lin said folks are afraid because they just don’t feel safe.
“Just people discriminating,” Lin told KABC. “We forget, we’re all people. We’re in America, we’re not in China.”