Gun stores remain open in California despite the closure of most businesses amid COVID-19 and reports indicate that first time buyers are cleaning out the shelves.
Robert Ibarra, a supervisor at Ammo Bros in Santa Ana, said he recently sold a gun to a woman who, like many others, said she wanted to feel safe but had never held or operated a firearm. She chose a .357 Magnum revolver.
“It is a pretty powerful gun for a first-time buyer. I would never, ever in a million years get a .357 Magnum,” Ibarra said. “People are just buying whatever they get their hands on.”
As the worldwide medical emergency unfolds, reports and sales data indicate that citizens nationwide are using their second amendment rights to bear arms.
Ammo Bros has seen a 65 to 70 percent increase in gun sales from last year and an 80 percent increase in ammunition sales, records show. According to the store, the lines have become so long that they have limited the number of new sales they are able to process to prioritize patrons who are picking up their firearms.
In California, the process of purchasing a handgun takes about 10 days. Buyers must be 21 and have completed the firearms safety certificate. After providing proof of residency, passing a background check and going through the waiting period, a clerk will complete a safety demonstration before handing off the gun.
All rules and regulations on gun purchases can be found through the California Department of Justice.
The Orange Army Navy Store had no more than eight handguns left on Wednesday, sales associates said.
“There were a lot more guns when I first bought one,” a buyer said.
The shelves were wiped clean of 9mms, Glocks and other handguns used mainly for self defense.
A sales associate at the store said there are always moments when gun sales surge out of fear, comparing the COVID-19 crisis with 9/11 and the Watts riots.
“When there is a political divide gun sales go up,” he said.
Jason Hernandez, a 26-year-old graphics arts major, said he doesn’t own a firearm and but thinks the rise in sales will lead to the spread of fear.
“People should be worried about where they put their attention, to help stop the spread of panic and unnecessary hysteria,” Hernandez said.
Another associate at Orange Army Navy Store said he sees the shortage in guns nationwide as scaring the general public into buying more.
According to the gun store owners, the gun stores have been filled with customers of all different walks of life who may realize they are unprepared for a crisis.
“This is going to be a good wake up call to have a firearm in their possession, in case something happens,” Ibarra said. “These things are tools to keep you safe, not a tool to go out and do crimes.”
For new gun owners, becoming familiar with a firearm might become a challenge, as firing ranges don’t fit the criteria of critical infrastructure, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order.
Ibarra said first time buyers should get some kind of training with someone who knows firearm safety as it could potentially save a life. He offered Youtube as an alternative way to learn how to use a firearm.