gun sales

Cameron Frisby looks at rifles at Al’s Sporting Goods on Monday.

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There was brisk activity at area gun counters over the weekend, but it wasn’t necessarily sparked by last Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump demonstrators. Store clerks say Cache Valley residents and their fellow Americans have been buying guns and ammo at a feverish pace since March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit home.

The run on guns and ammunition has left inventory of military-style rifles, most types of handguns, bullets in all popular calibers and reloading supplies not only depleted but at times nonexistent.

“We have had challenges getting guns and ammo. The supply has had a hard time keeping up with the demand, and we don’t really see that changing for the foreseeable future,” said Brandon Larsen of Al’s Sporting Goods in Logan. “We’re getting product, but it’s selling as soon as it hits the floor.”

A clerk at another Logan gun counter who asked not to be identified reported even bigger supply challenges.

“We just haven’t been able to get any ammo in lately, and all firearms with the exception of traditional hunting rifles are basically out of stock,” he said, noting that one of his store’s main suppliers, Vista Outdoors, has an enormous backlog of orders.

That backlog, according to Fox Business, topped $1 billion in ammunition alone as of Nov. 11, just after the U.S. election. The cable news network has also reported a record-smashing 73% increase in firearms sales in 2020, citing a trade industry estimate that 23 million firearms were sold last year, around 8 million of which went to first-time firearms owners.

By all accounts, the big rush started in March, coinciding with the announcement of cancellations and precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Two months later in May, the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis resulted in nationwide protests which may have also contributed to increased gun buying.

“That’s when I would say it all began for sure. We’ve always had busy sales, but the increase in sales and demand really kicked off hard in March,” said Larsen at Al’s Sporting Goods. He said the past week has not stood out as any different than the rest of a busy year.

Larsen’s words were echoed by clerks at two other big Logan gun retailers, C-A-L Ranch and Sportsman’s Warehouse, but none of the three report hearing much chatter from customers about why they were better arming themselves in 2020.

“That’s a hard question to answer,” Larsen said. “There are various reasons that people buy firearms. We see it all. We definitely see every reason. We hear it all.”

That said, a spot check of Logan’s big-box gun dealers over the weekend by The Herald Journal found a handful of vehicles sporting Trump flags and one with a Confederate flag license plate. Whether the vehicle owners actually visited the gun departments in the stores is unknown.

Along with dwindling supplies has come skyrocketing prices on both guns and ammunition. One independent local gun dealer estimated ammo hikes since March have been around 200 percent on both target-shooting and self-defense rounds.

As with toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, most gun retailers are limiting how much ammunition each customer can purchase at a time.

Charlie McCollum is the managing editor of The Herald Journal. He can be reached at cmccollum@hjnews.com or 435-792-7220.

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