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Gun sales soar and supply can’t meet demand

Andrea Schry, right, fills out the buyer part of legal forms to buy a handgun as shop worker Missy Morosky fills out the vendors parts after Dukes Sport Shop reopened, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New Castle, Pa. under the new conditions specified for gun stores. The store had closed last week when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a shut down of non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Gun enthusiasts months slow to the draw might have a hard time getting hold of firearms or ammunition for the foreseeable future.

Handguns, shotguns and even longrifles have disappeared from the shelves in response to national events and politics, while manufacturing has slowed down, unable to sustain the normal demand of weapons enthusiasts, according to county gun distributors.

“It’s been crazy the whole year, absolutely. It started as soon as the virus hit,” said Scott Davenport, the owner of East End Guns, Firearms and Live Bait.

Davenport explained political unease with events surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer caused many people to seek out firearms. Additionally, fear of legal measures to make procuring firearms more difficult or expensive has lended into a wave of firearms purchases.

“There’s high anxiety. They want to be armed, they think the police can’t do it all,” Davenport said. “They’re worried about new gun laws restricting the purchase of guns, and what types.”

But, it is not as simple as people flocking in droves to buy guns, according to Shane Sauers, a sales associate at Winner Hardware.

Sauers said gun sales normally escalate every four years due to the presidential election cycle. However, he said the current phenomena surrounding gun sales is a result of “Fear, greed and hoarding.”

“Do you recall back in February and March: For whatever reason, most people felt the need to have 15,000 rolls of toilet paper on-hand,” Sauers said. “I can only assume they are eating it.”

Sauers said manufacturers were in a struggle to produce toilet paper fast enough to meet the sudden demand, and for comparison’s sake, toilet paper is manufactured much faster than guns and ammo.

A gun store’s shelves being picked clean might be a good sight for an owner during a normal year, however during a pandemic with decreased production efficiency, it is the last thing shop owners want.

Sauers said local gun stores cannot turn a profit without supply, and although he could not release Winner’s Hardware’s backorder lists, he said there are multiple in the 6-digits that cannot be fulfilled.

“It is ridiculous,” Sauers said. “I’m sold out of everything. I have zero handguns and no shotguns for a while.”

Handguns seem to be the strongest-selling weapons next to shotguns. After that, long rifles, which normally trail behind handguns and shotguns, are still barely in-stock.

“Handguns are a strong-selling item. Our long gun sales have been very good also,” said Beth Miller Bason, owner of Miller’s Gun Shop.

That hoarding has also extended into ammunition. Davenport said that at the retail level, some shop owners are increasing prices.

“Some dealers are taking advantage of the situation. It’s like increasing the price of a bottle of water during an earthquake or a storm,” Davenport said.

Bason said she thinks many people are anticipating ammunition will be taxed, which will push it outside of the hands of the average hunter area shooter.

“It serves problems with getting product in-stock for buyers who are used to coming in and finding what they want and buying it,” Bason said.

Sauers anticipates the ‘shortage’–if it can be called that–may take three to five years to recuperate, based on how long it took 5.56 and .22 ammunition to recover after former President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012.

Sauers said many people bought stores out of their ammo fearing former President Obama would impose restrictions on AR-15’s, a weapon that uses 5.56 ammunition. As a result of consumers buying up that ammunition, it took almost a full election cycle for stock to recover.

“Now, we’re not just talking about two types. We are talking about every type: Shotgun, handgun and long gun [ammunition] of every caliber out there,” Sauers said.

“Folks are rating in different aspects that ammunition is looking to be taxed at higher rates. It is pushing ammunition out of reach for the average hunter or shooter. The thought is to buy it now before they pass bills to allow for the taxation of the items,” Bason said.

A part of the problem may be that manufacturing companies are not equipped to keep up with typical demand during a pandemic.

“Like any other product, the manufacturing of those products can’t keep up with the demand that has always been there for these products,” Bason said.

For her part, Bason encourages calm and patience.

“Let’s hope the products can get back into our country and politics stay outside our industry,” Bason said. “We need to be enjoying the outdoors and sports, not focusing on taking something away that has been apart of our history and country for 200 years.”

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