Gun sales rise as COVID-19 spreads

Shelves designated for ammunition sit mostly empty at Gander Outdoors in Kenosha on Wednesday.

 WAUKESHA — As locals spend more time at home over COVID-19, they’re stocking up on groceries and essentials, but there’s another set of products that’s flying off the shelves: guns and ammo.

In Waukesha, Northstar Gun Works’ Steve Koenig estimates he’s sold triple the number of handguns he did last year at this time.

“We’ve experienced a lot of people who haven’t” bought before, he said. “A lot of these people are paycheckto- paycheck (and protection is) just something that goes through peoples’ minds, I think.”

Koenig said ammo for 9 mm handguns, a popular choice for self-protection, was completely sold out. He’s only just managed to get ahold of more after getting a tip from a friend.

Steve Gonzalez owns and operates Midwest Handguns in Neosho, near Hartford. “It’s bringing everybody out to buy guns right now,” he said. “People who’ve never really thought about owning a gun ... that’s what’s speeding the process up.”

Koenig, a gunsmith who specializes in custom rifles, and Gonzalez, who teaches hunter safety, both emphasized the importance of communicating safe practices to first-time gun owners.

“I don’t like people not knowing how to use their guns,” Gonzalez said.

Koenig emphasizes responsible use when customers make their purchases. He had an 83-year-old man buy his first handgun ever from him last month, but it’s not clear whether that was due to concerns over COVID-19.

Wisconsin Carry Inc. President Nik Clark said he’s been receiving pictures from Carry members over empty shelves in gun shops. “We have members all across the whole state,” he said. “Everybody’s out of ammo.”

Clark said he’s heard of stores having trouble completing gun purchases because background checks got backed up due to heavy traffic, so they instead opt for “putting guns on layaway for people (so) they could come in later.”

Experiencing a shortage of inventory isn’t exactly unique to gun shops, Gonzalez said. “Everybody’s going through this together,” Gonzalez said. “All small businesses, not just us.”

Recommended for you