I knew that as soon as the media got tired of running stories about how many people were infected with COVID-19 (a.k.a, the ‘Chinese flu’) they would start telling us about all the people flocking into gun shops to stock up on ammo and guns. Here’s a headline from the South Bend Tribune: “Guns and ammunition become high-demand items in South Bend area.”
The story went on to say that there was a sign in the window of a local gun ship which said that only eight customers would be allowed into the shop at the same time.
Now for those of you who, as a general rule, don’t frequent gun shops, the fact is that most gun shops don’t have enough floor space to accommodate more than eight customers at any one time. Gun shops aren’t Kroger Supermarkets – they are small, privately-owned affairs, often sharing the sales area with someone selling video games, plumbing supplies or other consumer junk. Many gun shops also happen to be pawn shops, where the gun inventory shares shelf space with so-called designed jewelry and beat-up guitars.
And let’s not forget that you just can’t walk into Jerry’s Gun-o-Rama, plunk down your cash and walk off with a Glock. There’s a little something called the background check, which can also take up some time. The media has been saying that FBI-NICS checks are soaring thanks to the increased demand for guns. In fact, the background checks for handguns and long guns was 1.1 million in February; in February a year ago it was 950,000. That’s an increase for sure, but it’s not about to wipe the shelves clean. When the bell rang on Friday afternoon, Smith & Wesson stock had closed down at $7.81. The day before it opened at $8.39.
I’m not saying there isn’t panic buying of guns when people are scared. And by next week I can guarantee you that the gun-control group like Everytown and Brady will send me emails telling me that now, as never before, they need as much money as possible to confront this new and dire threat. After all, the more guns people buy, the more guns that end up in the ‘wrong hands.’ And the more people walking around with guns in their ‘wrong’ hands, the more people who will get shot. The argument about guns and security cuts both ways.
Having operated a gun shop before, during and after 9-11, I know a little something about how and why people buy guns during a period of intense and widespread fear. I also know something about how and why people buy guns when things are running along in a normal way. So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t jump on either side of the Zombie Apocalypse bandwagon right now.
In my state, Massachusetts, February saw 8,200 FBI-NICS checks. The same month a year ago it was 6,700, an increase of 22%. Not one of the buyers last month was buying his first gun. Why? Because in order to buy or own any gun in Massachusetts, you first need to get a gun license from the cops, a process which right now takes 3 – 4 months. Which means that anyone who walked into a Massachusetts gun shop in February because they needed to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus, held or applied for a gun license long before anyone knew anything about the COVID-19 virus at all.
What people who don’t own guns need to understand is that gun nuts really love their guns. And given the slightest excuse for running out and plunking down $500 – $600 to add another banger to their stash, they’ll do it every time. If you think for one second that when we finally get past the current scare that many of those recently-purchased guns won’t come back to the shops where they were bought because the house needs new gutters or maybe the truck needs a new set of tires, think again.
It may be difficult for gun owners or non-gun owners to understand what I am going to say, but the War of 1812 was the last time Americans had to defend their hearth and home from a serious threat.