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SLO Co. gun shops see surge in sales amid coronavirus fears

Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 26, 2020

Gun shop owners across the country, including firearms dealers in San Luis Obispo County, report a major increase in sales amid concerns around the coronavirus outbreak.

Rooster's Firearms in Templeton and Range Master in San Luis Obispo have both experienced in recent days what they described as an unprecedented surge in sales.

"Since we opened with a storefront in 2017 in Templeton, we've not seen the increase in sales that we've seen (recently)," Rooster's Firearms Owner Jim Mulhall said. "This has been astronomical."

Gun shop owners across the country, including a manager at a store in Swanton, OH, believe the wave of sales is a reaction to the fear people feel about the coronavirus restrictions.

"Fear usually comes with panic and they're gonna protect what they have," Galen Banks told the NBC affiliate.

An employee at Range Master said they've received so many customers in the past few days that they've had to implement new shopping guidelines to ensure social distancing.

The employee said only as many customers as there are staff present will be allowed inside Range Master, so if there are five employees on duty, there can only be five customers in the store.

Since the declaration of a State of Emergency in California, Rooster's Firearms has been inundated with new business.

"About 70 to 80 percent of our sales is to brand new customers," Mulhall said.

Mulhall suspects those unfamiliar faces are likely new to gun handling altogether.

"These new time buyers were unaware of the complexity that comes with buying a firearm," Mulhall said. "They thought they could walk in and walk out with a firearm and we've explained to them that's not the case."

In addition to explaining the law, Mulhall finds himself educating new gun owners on safe handling.

"If they want to take it a step further, we encourage them to buy a lock box or gun safe to secure those firearms," Mulhall said.

Mulhall said his shop also sells law enforcement specific firearms, which means there is typically an officer in the shop at any given time purchasing either firearms, ammunition, or other tactical gear.

Initially, gun shops were not considered essential businesses but after local government consulted with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office, gun shops were deemed essential.

LA cCounty authorities had deemed gun shops nonessential and ordered them to close but they changed their minds Wednesday night and allowed the businesses to remain open.