The world’s largest gun store, in metro Atlanta, has had lines that are six and eight people deep. A gun store in Los Angeles had lines that stretched down the block. And at least one store in Idaho put limits on sales after its shelves were nearly cleared out.
Just as grocery stores have been stripped bare by Americans panicked by coronavirus, guns and ammunition have started flying off the shelves. Retailers say the buying frenzy is being fueled by consumers who are worried that people are becoming so desperate and unpredictable, they need to ensure they can protect themselves.
“It’s been insane,” said Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia, adding that his ammunition sales are up more than five times the usual numbers. “This is like a Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode.”
Sales spiked in a matter of days, industry experts say. Some of the purchases are made by people buying their first firearm. Others are existing gun owners adding to their collection or stocking up on ammunition after seeing grocery stores depleted, schools closed and big events canceled, including the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting.
Also potentially driving the sales are concerns that elected officials may try to restrict access to firearms. A mayor in Illinois recently signed an executive order that would give her the right to ban the sale of guns or ammunition, as did the mayor of New Orleans.
Specific data on the size of the sales spike will not be available until next month. But already this year, background checks are up considerably over last year. According to data from the FBI, just over 5.5 million background checks were conducted in January and February combined.