Gun sales soar throughout the state The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Gun sales soar throughout the state

Gun sales soar throughout the state
City News
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by Jessica Myers, Cronkite News

Arizona processed a record 82,771 background checks on would-be gun buyers in March, as fears of the coronavirus drove people to gun shops in what one shop owner called “panic time.”

It was twice as high as any March in the state since FBI background checks began in 1998 and almost one-quarter of the total sales in Arizona for all of 2019, according to NICS Firearm Checks data, which showed a doubling of background checks from February.

Gun shop owners said the only thing that has slowed down sales is a lack of inventory after March’s surge.

“People have just started panic buying at an insane rate,” said Wayne Semenko, owner of SnG Tactical in Tucson. “People that have never bought before are in here buying.”

The surge in Arizona gun sales was reflected nationally, with background checks in March exceeding 3.7 million, the most ever for one month and more than 1 million more than the 2.6 million checks in March 2019.

Semenko and other gun shop owners blamed the increase, especially for first-time gun buyers, on fears that police agency ranks might be thinned by coronavirus infections as well as worries that gun shops might shut down along with other businesses.

There’s no danger of that for now in Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey declared gun shops an “essential service” in his March 23 executive order that shut down many other nonessential businesses.

Ducey’s decision was praised last month by the National Rifle Association, which calls the COVID-19 outbreak is a threat to the Second Amendment.

But Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun violence movement, said it is the NRA that is exploiting the pandemic to drive gun sales by “fear mongering.”

“The NRA’s suggestion that Americans should stockpile firearms during this pandemic is rooted in the organization’s desire to line the pockets of gun manufacturers,” the group said in a statement. “More guns don’t mean more safety: If more guns made Americans safe, then we’d be the safest nation in the world – but America’s homicide rate is 25 times than that of other high-income countries.”

Mark Healy, who owns Healy – America’s Firearm Provider, a large-volume dealer in Tempe, said he takes the responsibilities of gun ownership seriously.

During last month’s rush, he said, he handed out as many cards for gun training to people who were “unprepared for gun ownership” as he did applications for gun purchase.

Healy said cheaper handguns – anything below $400 – “went right away” and were extremely popular. He also said shoppers were buying more ammunition than they normally would and his store quickly ran out of popular items.

Healy said he does not have enough 9mm and basic-range ammo because it got “hoarded right away.”

He has enough stock to supply someone who just bought a gun but will not sell ammunition alone. While things have slowed down recently, he said he still has enough stock to supply most buyers.

“We’re still out of some things right now, but for anybody walking in right now looking for a handgun or long gun, we can certainly supply that,” Healy said.

Semenko also said ammunition is in high demand.

He said there is still a constant flow of customers coming in to get “what they need.”

“People are worried about other people, they want to be able to defend their possessions and their families,” Semenko said. “They don’t know what to expect. They see what happens in the grocery stores when things get a little bit low and they don’t want to be at the mercy of those people.”

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