The old joke about former President Barack Obama being the “gun salesman of the year” for several years during his presidency had a lot of truth to it. His policies and proposals were very anti-Second Amendment and had little regard for the rights of American citizens. When President Donald Trump took office in early 2017, gun sales waned somewhat, often referred to as the “Trump Slump.”
Now, however, the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting closures and directives have sent American citizens into somewhat of a tailspin, with uncertainty about how dangerous the virus will be and how long it will last ruling the day. And as Americans have done in past emergencies, they are again turning to the best means for self- and home-defense: A firearm. Panic buying, as it relates to guns, is at an all-time high. Meanwhile, residents in pro-gun control states have found buying a gun in times of need isn’t as easy as they expected. But, overall, gun sales are way up, and the coronavirus is why.
Gun Sales During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Gun stores throughout the nation are reporting greatly increased sales in the past few weeks. The result is that some gun shop displays are as bare as the toilet paper shelves at the local Walmart.
So what kind of numbers are we looking at here? According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System saw a 300-percent increase on Monday, March 16, compared to the same day in 2019. Daily volumes are roughly double what they were a year ago.
I spent half a day calling various retail gun shops in several regions of the country. Managers were simply too busy serving customers to grant even a short interview. Finally, I got someone on the phone at Sports World in Tulsa, Okla. He explained that things were so crazy that all employees were needed at the gun counter.
“Sir, we’re just too busy right now,” he said. “We’re all tied up.” Then he hung up. Does that put things in perspective?
Novice Shooters, Handguns, and Wait Times
I finally had the opportunity to visit briefly with Brent Voorhees. He’s the manager at Whistling Pines Gun Club West in Colorado Springs, Colo. But he could only take a few minutes away from his duties because of the mad rush surrounding him.
“It’s just been crazy around here,” Vorhees said. “Richard (Patton, manager at Whistling Pines East) is getting a bunch of novice shooters that are buying guns for the first time. On this side, for the most part it’s just regular gun owners buying more guns.”
Vorhees said the biggest sales jump has been for handguns in popular self-defense calibers, especially 9mm. Other handguns and a few AR-style rifles aren’t selling quite as briskly.
“We have a good enough stock that we haven’t sold out of anything yet,” he said. “We’re getting down to just having one or two left of some models, though.”
Vorhees also said the sudden sales increase in sales nationwide has also impacted the FBI’s background check system. In fact, the so-called “instant” check is now far from instant.
“Last Friday, the background checks weren’t too crazy—probably about an hour or two-hour wait,” Vorhees said. “Richard and I worked on Saturday, and it went from about 3,000 people in the queue up to about 6,000 people in the queue. So, it went from a two-hour wait up to now, where we’re at about a two-and-a-half day wait.”
A RISE in Orders
Larry Keane, SVP and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), wrote in a blog post that the uptick in gun purchases shows that Americans continue to turn to guns when the safety is a concern and uncertainty is widespread.
“Americans are lining up at local gun shops taking stock of their safety concerns and stocking up on guns and ammunition,” Keane said. “It’s showing that firearms continue to be a desired item and Americans are serious about providing for their safety—especially during times of uncertainty.”
Interestingly, in the short time since COVID-19 came on the scene, reverberations of the gun-buying uptick have already trickled down to the manufacturer level.
Camille Torres is the Marketing Manager for RISE Armament. RISE manufactures top-quality AR-style rifles, triggers and other parts. Torres said her company is already seeing a bump in demand from the COVID-19 run on guns.
“Some of our smaller dealers who before would just order a few of an item are calling in and ordering 10-times that amount because they’re saying they can’t keep them on the shelves,” Torres said. “We’re seeing it on all fronts—guns, triggers and parts. I kind of expected it to be for ammo and the full guns. I didn’t necessarily expect the parts to increase so quickly, but they’re increasing right along with everything else.”
While RISE is already at maximum production capacity, company officials are working hard to do what they can to meet the increasing demand.
“We’re adding shifts to some of the areas, which will increase capacity in that regard,” she said. “That’s something we can do more immediately. In the longer term, we already have plans, because of how much our brand has expanded, to add machining capacity as well. But, of course, that takes a while.”
So here we are — gun sales in the age of the coronavirus outbreak. The panic, which now includes eating your pet dog (it’s satire, relax), will inevitably lessen as a vaccine comes together and America gets a grip on COVID-19. However, for now, the importance of guns in survival situations is pretty clear. This story will continue to unfold in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned for expanded coverage on this topic.