REGION — “People feel like they need a weapon to protect their toilet paper.”
That was the takeaway of David Greenberg, owner of Second Amendment Family GunShop in Bisbee, whose store was buzzing Friday afternoon as fears over the coronavirus outbreak grow.
Greenberg said both his gun and ammo sales are up and the store has been constantly busy all week long. Parking lots outside of Cochise County gun stores were rarely vacant towards the end of the week with local associates swarmed with customers.
“People are panic buying,” he said. “I would rather them not panic. I’d rather it be steady business for days.”
Nationally, gun and ammo sales are skyrocketing and local stores are seeing the same effect. Ammo.com has reported sales up nearly 70 percent from Feb. 23 to March 4 over the previous 11 days. According to NPR, Ammo.com also says “sales jumped 68% shortly after Italy reported a major outbreak of COVID-19 last month.”
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.
West End Pawn in Sierra Vista is also seeing an increase of gun and ammo sales. Store manager Zachary Maffia said they have seen their increase all week long and said it’s good for business because it is “clearing things out.” While he didn’t know the exact reason customers wanted guns, he assumes it’s for protection.
Greenberg said most of the customers he’s had are first-time gun overs looking for a gun and are not being specific for what they are looking for. He said he is recommending a single-shot shotgun for these first-time buyers. Second Amendment Family GunShop still has some single-shot shotguns in stock but Greenberg said they are selling quickly.
This isn’t the first instance of the public frantically purchasing weapons in the county and nationally. Greenberg said in the 13 years he’s owned his shop in Bisbee, he has seen this happen at least four times. He says it’s common for this type of panic by gun owners to occur when a Democrat takes office.
The most recent instance was in September when former Democratic presidential contender Beto O’Rourke declared that AR-15s and AK-47s would be seized from people who own them during a debate.
Gun sales generally rise in an election year, as they did in 2016. But this past January and February have outpaced 2016 by nearly 350,000.
“It’s the same old story,” Greenberg said. “There’s a panic over nothing.”
The Associated Press contributed to the report.