In March, local sporting goods stores were seeing a major run on guns and ammunition as the coronavirus pandemic hit the region.
Some types of guns and some ammunition were already in short supply.
And things have only gotten worse since then.
“It’s terrible, guns and ammo both are in short supply,” Chris Miller, the son at Frank Miller & Son Sporting Goods, said last week.
“We’re seeing a lot of first-time buyers,” he said. “First, it was the pandemic. People were afraid that things would get bad and they wanted to protect what they had. Then, it was the social unrest and they were worried about that. And a lot of people just like to go out and target practice. They just like to shoot.”
“It’s getting worse,” Darrik Caraway, one of the owners of Whittaker Guns in West Louisville, said of the shortage.
“One of the biggest things,” he said, “is when Republicans are in the White House, sales are traditionally slow. So manufacturers cut back on production, laid off workers and were overstocked. They cut prices to get rid of inventory.”
Caraway said, “Then, the pandemic hit — first on the West Coast. And people started buying everything up. A lot of manufacturers had to close temporarily. And some still aren’t back to full capacity. People are still laid off. It’s the same with parts. Demand is at an all-time high.”
CNN reported recently that background checks for firearms purchases “reached an all-time high in March and maintained record highs for April and May, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms trade association that monitors gun sale-related background checks to track industry trends.”
It said, “semi-automatic handguns outpaced shotguns by a two-to-one margin as the weapons of choice among first-time gun buyers, according to gun merchants surveyed by NSSF.”
The story said that “more than 6.5 million gun-sale background checks were conducted from January 1 through April 30, according to the latest NSSF research, which showed a 48% year-over-year rise from the same period in 2019. Firearms retailers surveyed by NSSF in May estimated that 40% of their sales came from first-time gun buyers.”
Caraway said, “We get 80 to 150 guns in every day and we sell everything we get. I can’t restock. There’s not enough guns and ammunition available now.”
He said, “We still have some guns and we’re not going to run out. But we’re limiting how much anyone can buy.”
Nine millimeter and .380 ammunition are the ones most affected by the shortage, he said.
Caraway said. “If the product was available today, we could be having record numbers of sales. This would be the biggest boom in history.”
Miller said, “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. Manufacturers only have so much capacity and they’re going full bore to try to supply the nation. Some are starting from square one. When people see ammunition, they buy it because they don’t know when they’ll get another chance.”
Shortages often mean price hikes.
“Some are jacking prices up,” Miller said. “But we’ve been in business 57 years and we don’t do that. It’s not right.”
He agreed that 9 mm ammunition in the shortest supply for handguns.
For rifles, he said, it’s the .223 and 5.56 mm.
“But everything is short, even the more obscure stuff that we don’t sell much of,” Miller said. “Manufacturers can only make so much and they’re making the most popular ammunition.”
Election years are always big for gun sales — if Democrats are expected to win.
With Democrat Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump in most polls this summer, is that part of the reason for the shortage?
No, Caraway said.
“The manufacturers do their own polls,” he said, “and they still expect Republicans to keep the White House.”
Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 firstname.lastname@example.org