"Once the coronavirus hit the news media, and people started to get weird, as the toilet paper flew off the shelves, so did our guns."
So said Michael Holley, owner of Gunslingers at 308 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, in a Monday (March 23) interview. He had just opened the store for business Feb. 11, not long before the COVID-19 stories began dominating the news.
Does he think people are feeling uneasy about protecting their property?
"I do," Holley said. "I think this is something a lot of people have never been through before, so they're not sure how to deal with it. What we've noticed is a strong increase in people arming themselves and buying ammo."
Holley decided to close his store before the general shutdown went into effect Monday because he has a chronic respiratory disorder that he feels puts him at risk. However, he said he'd sold out of ammo immediately once the virus became major news.
Sold out totally? "We sold out of every common caliber," he said, "and a lot of firearms as well."
Just handguns? "Handguns, yes, but rifles and shotguns as well." Holley continues to come into the store to fulfill mail orders. He's posted a sign on the door advising UPS and FedEx drivers to knock when they come to pick up.
Does he see the trend continuing? "I don't see this thing [the pandemic] going too much further," Holley said. "As long as people are diligent about staying safe and clean and keeping their distance for now and letting this thing blow over, I think this virus will go away and it will be business as usual."
Zombie Tactical at 1351 Paseo del Pueblo Sur has also closed its doors, but owner Fred Sisneros concurred with Holley.
"We've had a major uptick," he said, "and a lot of the people coming into the store are anti-gun or have never owned a gun before. But because of what's going on with the virus, they feel the need to protect themselves."
Sisneros said they've had to be cautious. "We don't want to sell a gun to anyone who doesn't know how to handle one. They could go out and get themselves in serious trouble." Under normal circumstances, the store offers a two-day course in firearm safety for first-time gun owners.
Sisneros said he had also sold out of ammunition in all calibers except for the odd ones that fit rare or antique weapons. "We can't even get supplies from our wholesalers these days. They're sold-out, too."
What about background checks for these first-time gun buyers? "Right now, NICS is really backed up," Sisneros said. "The last time we checked, they had a backlog of between 8,000 and 9,000 checks to do."
The NICS, or National Instant Criminal Background Check System, is jointly operated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to provide mandatory background checks on all firearm purchasers.
Big 5 Sporting Goods at 223 Paseo del Pueblo also sells firearms but referred all questions to the company's corporate offices.
In order to read our site, please exit private/incognito mode or log in to continue.