If California is any indicator, the coronavirus just might start to rival the Obama presidency as the best marketing campaign in history for firearms.
Gun stores across Los Angeles were besieged by crowds stocking up on firearms and ammunition last week, amid fears that coronavirus will lead to crimes like looting and break-ins, and finally to riots.
Lines were long at stores in Culver City, Inglewood, Burbank and Reseda, with many saying that the crisis has prompted them to buy firearms for the first time in their lives, reports MailOnline.
“When you see all the shelves empty it’s like living in a movie, you can’t believe it,” explained Charles Dawson. “So you start buying more food and then you think what next? I need a gun. Everyone else has got one so I want one. It’s that herd mentality.
“I’ve been trying to get in all week. This line’s been going round the corner all week. So I got here this morning at 6.30am. I was the first one here, because I was determined to get guns.”
The hairdresser said all his clients have cancelled in the past 48 hours after the city entered strict isolation rules over the weekend.
“I’m worried that there’s not going to be enough police if people lose their jobs and become desperate to pay the rent,” he said. “If there’s break-ins, the cops can’t be there for everybody so I want to be able to take care of myself.”
COVID-19 has killed nearly 500 and infected more than 35,000 in the U.S., and is driving panic buying around the nation. Canned foods, cleaning products and toiletries are disappearing from store shelves, and now weapons are moving.
Online ammunition store Ammo.com revealed they saw a 700 percent increase in sales from Feb. 23 to March 4 compared to the 11 days before February 23 – the day Italy reported a major outbreak of the coronavirus.
Carla Apodac, 27, said the panic pushed her into taking the plunge and buying a gun.
“I’m here for self-defense, obviously because of the coronavirus. But before that I was already thinking about it. This is just the catalyst that pushed me to do it. I came last Friday but it was full and they told me to come here at 8 a.m.”
Apodac said she was worried that layoffs due to social isolation could lead to desperation and looting.
Many of the customers lining up at stores in LA waited for hours but were turned away by staff after failing to qualify for weapons purchases under California rules, which include background checks. The owner of Burbank Ammo & Guns said wait times at his store were around two hours, and a neighboring store closed after their stock completely sold out in a frantic rush last weekend.