Gun sales have skyrocketed in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, it’s becoming much more difficult to purchase guns, and not for the reasons you might think. Authorities in states with stay-at-home orders in effect don’t consider gun shops to be “essential” businesses. Now owners of gun shops are filing a lawsuit to try to be allowed to stay open during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Gun sales rise on coronavirus fears
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in hoarding and panic buying of essentials like bread and toilet paper. However, the coronavirus has also brought about a spike in gun sales. Pictures of people lining up outside of gun shops across the country are circulating on social media.
Additionally, companies that sell guns and ammunition are sharing data about their sales. Ammo.com reported that Americans have been buying ammo “at an unprecedented rate.” The website reports a 68% increase in sales for the period of Feb. 23 through March 4. That’s compared to sales during the 11 days ending on Feb. 23. Some gun shop owners are even starting to ration sales of ammunition, according to Forbes.
In addition to the increase in gun sales, sales of survival gear like flashlights, knives, body armor, bulletproof vests and medical kits are also rising amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Why is the coronavirus driving increased gun sales?
The coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only event to drive increased gun sales. Presidential election years often drive increased sales because Americans worry that the next president won’t allow them to buy firearms. This is especially true if it looks like a Democrat will take over the Oval Office.
When Hillary Clinton was running for president, many even feared she would find a way to legally take away their guns. Whenever there is new legislation that would impact people’s ability to buy guns, sales also tend to jump.
Gun shop owners also tend to see increased sales after mass shootings as many people start to worry that new laws limiting their ability to purchase firearms will be enacted.
Many people are currently worried about the possibility of social unrest due to the pandemic.
Background checks also soaring
Background checks required to purchase a gun are also skyrocketing. Federal data shared with the National Shooting Sports Foundation reveals that background checks for firearms rose 300% on March 16. In fact, every day since Feb. 23, the number of background checks has been about twice the volume seen last year. Additionally, background checks were already at record highs the first two months of the year. Experts believe that spike was due to the fact that 2020 is a presidential election year.
National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesperson Mark Oliva told Syracuse.com that the system used to conduct federal background checks is overwhelmed by the surge in checks required to purchase firearms. He said what usually takes only a few minutes now takes a lot longer. He also said there’s now a backlog of about 80,000 background checks.
The last time federal background checks peaked, according to Forbes, was after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, which claimed 26 lives, mostly small children. Background checks peaked at more than 950,000 in the wake of the shooting.
Gun shop owners sue to stay open
The increase in gun sales related to the coronavirus pandemic has brought a new fight for shop owners. Fox News reports that officials and citizens are split over whether gun shops should be considered “essential” businesses and allowed to stay open when all “nonessential” businesses are ordered to be shut.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and banks are considered to be “essential,” while clothing stores are not. So now there’s a debate about whether gun shops are “essential” because they provide the weapons citizens need to protect themselves if social unrest should arise amid the pandemic.
In some states, like Maryland, gun shops are exempt from the order for “nonessential” businesses to close down, suggesting that they are seen as “essential.” However, in other states, officials are ordering them to close.
Vox reports that a gun shop in Pennsylvania is teaming up with one gun owner and a number of gun groups on a lawsuit intended to keep stores that sell firearms open during the stay-at-home order. The lawsuit alleges that the second amendment provides Pennsylvania residents the constitutional right to be able to buy guns, even during a pandemic.
It’s expected that similar lawsuits could follow in other states. The National Rifle Association told the Washington Free Beacon that all options, “legal, legislative, and otherwise,” are possible for keeping gun sales going during the coronavirus pandemic.