Valley firearm businesses report increase in sales amid coronavirus outbreak

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought citizens to a variety of businesses to stock up on supplies.

Firearms are no different. Suppliers and retailers of firearms and ammunition are essential services, according to an executive order from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

Vincent Vasquez, owner of C2 Tactical — an indoor shooting range specializing in firearms and training courses — said he has seen an uptick in sales for a variety of items like firearms and ammunition, as well as sign-ups for training courses.

And while March is usually a busy time for C2 Tactical, now feels a little different, according to Mr. Vasquez.

“We’re probably in the same boat with most of the high demand items in the country right now where supplies are limited,” Mr. Vasquez said. “It’s challenging because everyone is hungry so to speak. Everyone wants to get more pieces of ammo or more pieces of firearms, or more holsters or more pepper sprays. So, everyone’s hungry. All the stores are asking for inventory at the same time. So that makes it difficult from the supplier perspective.”

With federal and state guidelines advising people to avoid groups of 10 or more, C2 Tactical — with locations in Scottsdale and Tempe — is offering training sessions in small groups of two to three. There is also one-on-one instruction for those seeking guidance on their firearm.

C2 Tactical isn’t the only firearms business affected by COVID-19. Over at Shooter’s World, with locations in Peoria and Phoenix, classes have been canceled through April. However, the ranges remain open with a reduced number of lanes available to maintain social distancing.

Chris Birchby, marketing and technology manager at Shooter’s World, also said firearms, ammunition and education are in high demand right now.

“There’s been an overwhelming interest in education with the surge of first-time gun buyers, and our decision to make training more accessible through heavily discounted training packages,” Mr. Birchby said. “We’re encouraging students to purchase these discounted packages now and add themselves to the class waitlist. Training classes will resume in the upcoming weeks when it’s safe to do so.”

According to Edward Maguire, a professor at Arizona State University, people may be buying guns for a variety of reasons.

“I see two plausible explanations. The first is a collective sense of insecurity due to the COVID-19 crisis,” Mr. Maguire said. “People recall the widespread looting that occurred after natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and they want to protect themselves from perceived threats they may face, particularly in the aftermath of economic insecurity.

“Second, as people see presidential candidate Joe Biden gaining ground, they may also fear the possibility of more restrictive gun laws. Without data, I am not sure whether either one of these is a valid explanation.”

Mr. Vasquez says as people get older and/or start to have families, they start thinking about how to provide self-defense at home.

Likewise, Mr. Birchby says the No. 1 reason people are rushing to buy is the community wanting another layer of home protection for their families.

But even if people are buying to protect their homes, Mr. Maguire doesn’t think burglaries will be more commonplace.

“I would not predict an increase in residential burglaries since there is much greater ‘guardianship’ now with so many people staying home,” he said. “There may be more break-ins and thefts from businesses because so many of them are closed and there is so much less guardianship than normal.”

However, there have been at least two cases in Phoenix this week where shootings broke out because suspects were attempting to burglarize a home or unlocked vehicles.

While price gouging has been a problem for items like personal protective equipment and — believe it or not, toilet paper and hand sanitizer — places like Shooter’s World are trying to keep ethical pricing in mind.

“In the wake of this pandemic, there’s been an overwhelming demand for firearms and ammunition,” Mr. Birchby said. “The entire industry has seen product availability dry up, and wholesale prices increase. These factors can equate to higher than regular retail pricing, but we’ve found a way of offering product that is otherwise unavailable at other retailers throughout the Valley.”

In the event people are looking to buy firearms or other items for protection, there are a few things to know.

The legal limit in Arizona to open carry without a permit is 18. Open carry is legal in Arizona for any person who is at least 18 and who can legally possess a firearm. Some areas are off-limits, including schools and liquor stores that have posted “no weapons” signs.

Anyone at least 21 who can legally possess a firearm can conceal carry without a permit. About 345,000 permits have been issued in the state, according to the United States Concealed Carry Association.

In addition, less lethal options like pepper spray, Tasers and stun guns are legal to purchase and possess without a permit.

And don’t forget those nun chucks, which the Arizona legislature and governor approved of in 2019.

And with the rush to buy firearms, there should also be a rush to learn how to properly use them.

“We all start in the beginning. None of us know how to drive and none of us know how to eat until we’re taught how to eat and taught how to drive and taught how to ride a bike,” Mr. Vasquez said. “It’s important to learn about what you’re doing, how to manage the device correctly. Whether it’s a pandemic or general business for the day. Information is important for people to know.”

Tips to stay safe

  • If you find yourself in a confrontation with someone and no one around, take stock of your situation and be aware of your exits
  • With less people in public places, make yourself heard if coming around a corner or up behind someone so as not to startle them
  • If trying to avoid high traffic times while being out, don’t tune out with headphones
  • Try to avoid being out alone before or after dark
  • Take a one on one self-defense, gun or tactical class

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