As Clayton Mendel, former owner of Mammoth-based Eastern Sierra Armory (which he closed last year), observed this week, gun and ammunition sales are driven by societal uncertainty.
Given 2020 has been the most uncertain year in recent memory, it should come as no surprise that gun and ammunition sales have been setting records.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), background checks for gun purchases have already hit an annual record this year – and we still have three months to go.
The 3.93 million background checks conducted in July alone constitute a single month record – the most since the FBI began conducting such checks in 1998.
Check out the year-over-year spikes in monthly unit sales of firearms according to the website Statista.com:
At the start of the Pandemic:
March 2019: 1.394 million
March 2020: 2.583 million (an increase of 85% year-over-year)
George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25. Check out the ensuing month’s sales:
June 2019: 973,500
June 2020: 2.388 million (an increase of 145% year-over-year).
Dale Miller, who’s owned Mac’s Sporting Goods in Bishop, told The Sheet this week, “I’ve never seen anything like it [in my 33 years owning Mac’s].”
“We can’t get guns in right now,” added Miller. “The riots didn’t help,” he says, because they affected Miller’s ability to get merchandise.
“We’re up 40% in sales this year … We’d up more if we had supply.”
Jeff Nelums, Manager at Reagan’s Sporting Goods, says simply, “Everywhere, sales are through the roof. Men and women ages 21 to 75, people who’ve never held a gun in their lives, they’ve been in here asking about them.”
Nelums listed three factors driving demand – Covid, riots, politics – which have led to an overarching emotional condition: Fear.
The most popular guns this year: Handguns. Either the Glock 19 or the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield. That and AR-15s. “If we could get a hundred of ‘em in here, they’d sell out in 3-4 weeks.”
AR-15s range in price from $800-$2,000.
Perhaps the interest in AR-15s has been spurred by the prospect of a change in White House residency. From Forbes Magazine: “The specter of increased gun control from the Democratic contenders for the White House, former Vice President Joseph Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has particularly boosted sales of tactical-style semiautomatic rifles including AR-15s.
The Biden-Harris gun control proposal would fold these guns, commonly known as assault weapons though the industry prefers to call them modern sporting rifles, into the purvey of the National Firearms Act. That would add a $200 tax to the purchase of the gun and increase the background check wait time from minutes to months.
The Democratic candidates would also implement a nationwide buyback for owners of AR-15s, a proposal has been driving sales for the military-style rifles.”
As for ammunition, Nelums says ammo is like toilet paper was back in March. Everybody’s stockpiling it.
Rick Gieser of Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport concurred. “We’ve got some rifle cartridges [in stock], but pistol ammo is next to impossible [to get],” he said.
“Covid plus riots is better for ammo [sales] than Obama was,” says Gieser.
From Dale Miller: “Our other big year was when Obama got elected.”
Mendel’s explanation: “Post-Sandy Hook [2012 school shooting in Connecticut], I saw a huge surge in sales, but they were mostly repeat customers worried about gun control legislation.”
And that’s the irony of this recent surge in gun interest, says Mendel. “How many of these new gun owners now find themselves sitting on the other side of that [gun control] argument?”
But back to Gieser. He says Ken’s hasn’t experienced quite the boom of some of the other local firearm sellers because it’s more focused on guns for hunting as opposed to personal protection.
But Ken’s has had a nice surge in selling rods and reels, he adds. “It’s the best we’ve done in a long time.”
“The Bass shop sells ‘em stuff [in the city],” explains Gieser. “But the salesperson doesn’t even know how to use it. We don’t mind teaching ‘em, because service sells everything. Show ‘em [what to do] and we’ve gained a customer.”
Overall, says Nelums, people selling recreational equipment are having record years this year.
Not only in retail, but trailers, fifth wheels, you name it.