As the media began beating the drums of severity over COVID-19, a lot of people started buying guns. I mean a lot of people. Gun stores started looking like toilet paper aisles at the supermarket, essentially picked clean. Folks who had never bought guns before got a crash course in gun laws as they tried to buy guns in any way they could, only to find out that clever names for supposed “loopholes” weren’t actually loopholes.
Yet they kept buying guns.
Now, it looks like the surge in gun sales has outstripped the response to other disasters.
Gun shop owners have never seen such a surge in sales —not after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, not in reaction to mass shootings, not even when Category 5 hurricanes threatened to flatten South Florida.
Fear and uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are motivating people to buy guns and ammunition as they seek protection from possible doomsday disintegration into lawlessness, with home invasions, looting, runs on banks, and fights over food, medicine, hospital beds and shelter across the land.
“Our sales are up 80 percent, with a huge increase in first-time buyers who are worried about martial law, economic collapse, unemployment, shortages, delinquents roaming the streets,” said Alex Elenberg, manager of Charlie’s Armory on West Flagler Street. “If you can’t defend your house and your family, what good are you?”
The United States is the home of the world’s largest gun-owning population per capita, where 40 percent of Americans say they own a gun or live in a household with guns. Even so, concern about the accelerating spread of COVID-19 is causing a spike in sales, according to sellers and data from gun-tracking agencies, such as the FBI’s National Instant Crime Background Check System, which saw a doubling of checks on applicant buyers last week.
In Florida, the number of background checks posted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which closely correlates with the number of gun sales statewide, has risen to unprecedented levels, up nearly 500 percent on Friday alone, with 13,192 checks recorded compared to 2,646 on the same date last year.
For many, this is shocking. How is this triggering more gun sales than 9/11 or many other natural disasters?
The truth is, those disasters hit and then were over. Hurricanes can be ugly and looting may be a thing afterward, but it’s not generally widespread. A lot of people figure that the worst is over and life will soon get back to normal. Besides, gun stores often didn’t have power. They couldn’t sell guns, even if people suddenly felt like they needed one.
With 9/11, you have something of the same thing. While many bought guns out of concern for the next terrorist attack, many others figured it was over and they could start trying to let life get back to normal.
COVID-19 is nothing of the sort. This was a creeping disaster that people saw coming but really couldn’t do much of anything about. We could all see it inch closer and closer. Then we started hearing about quarantines and shutdowns and some started to wonder about how long our system could support us with no manufacturing taking place. How long before the sick started breaking quarantine to try and get food from their neighbors? There were a lot of horrifying questions.
So, they bought guns. Lots and lots of guns.
Will they need them? I certainly hope not, but guns are like fire extinguishers. You buy them praying you never need them.
Right now, a lot of people are learning that lesson.
Yet that’s a topic for another time. Right now, we’re talking about the gun buying splurge that’s taken place and why that is a thing. At this point, though, the reason gun sales are going through the roof can be summed up with just one word: Wisdom.
People are making the right call. They may never need it, but also like that fire extinguisher, the moment you need it is the moment it’s too late to get one.
Good on so many folks making sure they never reach that point.