SANTA FE – In Santa Fe, bullets may be as hard to come by as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Gun stores in the area have reported a surge in sales after the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, leading to a shortage of some items that rarely go out of stock.
The three firearm retailers in Santa Fe – Big R Stores, Big 5 Sporting Goods and The Outdoorsman of Santa Fe – all had long lines of people waiting to buy new guns or ammunition. Nearly everyone was talking about the virus.
“It’s been like this for the past 2½ weeks,” said Bill Roney, owner of The Outdoorsman. “It’s absolutely insane.”
Roney said the rush to buy firearms is happening across the nation, as evidenced by the long wait times for the FBI to perform background checks.
“They’re not even answering the phone,” he said. “There’s a 40-minute delay time on that. It’s an indication that this is going on all over the country, not just here.”
At Big 5, Manager Doug Stuart said the store typically sells one gun every other day. Since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health crisis March 11, that number has swelled to around 10 per day.
“(People are) just scared that it’s going to be … looting and home invasions,” Stuart said.
At every store, ammunition shelves were nearly wiped out and many gun racks lay empty.
For example, despite receiving a shipment of 9mm ammunition and Glock pistols just days earlier, The Outdoorsman ran out of those items.
Ibrahim Loeks, a Santa Fe resident, said he has been going to The Outdoorsman since he was 10 years old and had never seen the store so busy.
“Looking at the shelves, I can say they are emptier than I’ve ever seen them,” he said.
Loeks, who went to the store wearing a face mask and carrying cleaning spray in his back pocket, said the virus has led to increased tensions among different people.
“It’s palpable, the franticness and anxiety that people are experiencing,” he said.
Roney said he has operated gun stores in Santa Fe since 1973. In that time, he has seen the public react to prison riots, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and many different viruses.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak and the seismic reactions to it are unique, he said.
“This particular incident seems to have shaken people more than anything I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Roney said that despite the increased demand, customers in his store usually behave appropriately. He also said the demand for firearms coincides with the rush on other items, such as food and toiletries.
“If you don’t want people taking things from you, what would you think about doing? Trying to protect yourself, one way or another,” he said.