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Toilet Paper, Frozen Foods And Hand Sanitizer Purchases Are Up. So Are Gun Sales


Here's something we've seen before during a crisis - gun and ammunition sales spiking. It's happening again now as the coronavirus outbreak grows. Many of the buyers say they want to be ready with protection in case of a mass panic. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: Just a few miles from the Los Angeles airport, a group of people, including families with children playing video games, line up outside the LAX range and ammo gun shop in Inglewood. A store employee checks IDs and asks potential customers what caliber ammunition they're looking for.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: .45, .38 Special.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: .45, .38 Special I have...

CORLEY: There have been a large number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in California and, over the past few days, long lines outside of gun and ammo stores.

Outside the LA shop, no one will agree to give their last name. But Colin (ph), in line with his fiancee Liz (ph), says they have about a month's supply of food and water at home. Now he wants to make sure they have enough ammunition on hand, too.

COLIN: It's really just a matter of if things go bad in the next couple of weeks to couple months, the - and people are, you know, panicking and rioting and looting, you know, the government and the police will not have the ability to protect us. And that's really the main issue. It's not really out of fear; it's just out of being prepared.

CORLEY: In Tulsa, Okla., David Stone and his wife run one of the oldest gun shops in the state - Dong's Guns, Ammo and Reloading. Stone says the pandemic is leading to a lot of panic buying.

DAVID STONE: Some people just come in - I want an AR-15. They don't care what the brand is. They just want the cheapest one.

CORLEY: Stone says gun sales are up about 20%, but ammunition sales have really skyrocketed.

STONE: People are driving over from Arkansas, two or three hundred miles away, because they said all their box stores - the shelves are empty.

CORLEY: Online retailer is recording huge increases, too. The company says sales jumped 68% shortly after Italy reported a major outbreak of COVID-19 last month. Sales spiked most in North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas. In the recent past, gun sales have soared during natural disasters and policy fights over gun control. The online retailer says this may be the first time that a virus has had such a far-reaching impact on sales.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.