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Some Stock Up On Guns And Ammunition During Coronavirus Crisis

People wait in a line to enter a gun store in Culver City, Calif., on March 15, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have led to consumer panic buying of grocery staples, and now gun stores are seeing a similar run on weapons and ammunition as panic intensifies.
Ringo H.W. Chiu

Gun and ammunition sales often spike during a crisis. That's exactly what's been happening now with the cornonavirus threat. Many gun buyers say they want to be ready with protection if there's panic.

Just a few miles from the Los Angles Airport, a group of people, including families with children playing video games, lined up outside LAX Ammo in Inglewood. A store employee checks IDs and tells potential customers what caliber ammunition is in stock. Answering questions, he tells the crowd he has .45 caliber and .38 Special.

"For 12-gauge, I only have birdshot, no more buckshot, no more slugs," he continues.

California is one of the states with the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and over the past few days, there have been long lines curving around gun and ammo stores.

Outside the LA shop, no one will agree to give their last name but Colin, in line with his fiance Liz, says they have about a month's supply of food and water at home. Now he wants to make sure they have enough ammunition on hand too.

"It's really just a matter of, if things go bad in the next couple weeks to couple of months and people are panicking and rioting and looting, the government and the police will not have the ability to protect us," he says. "And that's really the main issue, it's not really out of fear it's just out of being prepared."

In Tulsa, Okla., David Stone and his wife run one of the oldest gun shops in the state, Dong's Guns, Ammo and Reloading. Stone says the pandemic is leading to a lot of panic buying.

"Some people come in and they just want an AR-15. They don't care what the brand is," he says. "They just want the cheapest one."

Stone says gun sales are up about 20%, but ammunition sales have really skyrocketed between 400% to 500%.

"People are driving from Arkansas 200 and 300 miles away because they say all their box store shelves are empty," Stone says.

Online retailer, Ammo.com, is recording huge increases, too. The company says sales jumped 68% shortly after Italy reported a major outbreak of COVID-19 last month. Sales spiked most in North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas. In the recent past, gun sales have soared during natural disasters and policy fights over gun control. The online retailer says this may be the first time that a virus has had such a far reaching impact on ammunition and gun sales.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.
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