Charlotte, N.C. (CBS Local) — Americans are not just lining up to buy toilet paper over coronavirus concerns. They’re also flocking to stores to buy guns and ammunition.
Gun shops nationwide are reporting a surge in sales, particularly from first-time gun buyers, as Americans brace for the worst amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Background checks for gun purchases through the FBI system totaled 2.8 million nationally in February, a 36 percent jump compared to the same month in 2019, The New York Times reported.
“We attribute it mainly to the virus scare,” said Larry Hyatt, a gun store owner in North Carolina, who says he’s selling more than 300 firearms a week, a jump in sales between 30 percent and 40 percent since late February.
Gun and ammunition dealers said they’ve seen an influx of customers with fears related to the coronavirus in recent weeks. Some dealers said an unusually high proportion of sales have been to first-time gun buyers. https://t.co/UOk2SnmLoe
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 16, 2020
“When you’re told that the coronavirus is going to get you, and the TV and everything is just swamped with it, people start believing it, and they get scared,” said Chuck Lowder, who picked up a rifle at Hyatt Guns last week.
Hyatt says the presidential election and stock market fluctuations have also been driving business.
“People have a little lack of confidence that if something big and bad happens, that 911 might not work. We saw it with [Hurricane] Katrina. People haven’t forgotten that a disaster happened, and the government didn’t come,” he said.
Recent gun sale hikes in Washington State and California also included higher-than-usual numbers of Asian-American customers, some of whom are concerned about racist backlash over the pandemic, which is believed to have originated in China.
STOCKING UP ON SELF DEFENSE: Gun sales are skyrocketing across the San Gabriel Valley as Asian Americans in the area fear they may be targeted because of their ethnicity amid rising fears about the spread of the coronavirus. https://t.co/c5ha6W9dt3 pic.twitter.com/0sdLG0112t
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) March 11, 2020
“Because of coronavirus, a lot of people start to worry,” he said.
The San Gabriel Valley has a high concentration of Asian Americans, and Liu said many of his customers are afraid they may be targeted because of their ethnicity if a local outbreak of coronavirus occurs.
“I do worry,” said Daniel Lim, who recently bought a gun for his wife at the store.