Jim Perkins has been busy the last few weeks.
That’s because, amid the coronavirus pandemic, he’s sold roughly triple the number of guns he typically sells around this time of year.
“All they want is something for home protection. … I guess they’re scared about people stealing their food and toilet paper,” Perkins said with a laugh.
On a more serious note, Perkins — owner of Retic Arms near Adamstown — and other gun shop owners in and near Frederick said coronavirus news has caused more customers to visit their shops in the past two weeks or so, looking for weapons for self-defense.
Perkins said he has sold pretty much all of his inventory, mostly shotguns. Many customers have been first-time buyers, who need instruction on how to properly store, operate and clean a gun.
Robert Wilson, owner of the Stateline Gun Exchange in Emmitsburg, also said he’s seen an increase in sales. That’s been important, he added — because he’s had to cancel other events that typically bring in a decent amount of income, he said.
The added sales at the store have helped make up for that loss, Wilson said.
“We’re always busy, but it’s definitely been an increase in business,” he said. “People are concerned about their Second Amendment rights being infringed upon, and they’re stocking up due to the coronavirus.”
There was also concern and confusion that gun shops would be considered a non-essential business and ordered to close, given an executive order Gov. Larry Hogan issued Monday. A spokesman for Hogan said that gun shops were exempt from the order.
Both R&R Guns and Ammo in Brunswick and The Gun Shack/Crosswind in Mount Airy had voice mail recordings Tuesday that stated they were closing due to the order issued by Hogan. Ro Lipscomb, owner of R&R Guns and Ammo, posted on the store’s Facebook page he would be closed through March 30.
On Wednesday, The Gun Shack’s message was changed to state that it would reopen, with a maximum of 10 people in the store at a time.
Bill Kelley, owner of the Gun Center in Frederick, also said he was preparing to shut down at 5 p.m. Monday. After consulting with Maryland State Police, however, he determined he could remain open.
Many people who have bought guns the past few weeks are looking for home protection, Kelley said. He joked that household item shortages are making the situation more dire.
“They come in with a panicked look on their face. ... They’re anxious and whatnot,” Kelley said. “When you find out you can’t buy toilet paper, you realize the world is coming to an end.”
Kelley and other shop owners said people are buying shotguns and other long guns because, as long as the customer passes an instant background check, they can take the gun home the same day. Handguns require a seven-day waiting period per state law.
“Their first question is, what can I get today?” Kelley said. “And that stuff is pretty much cleaned out.”
There’s also the issue of if you’re a small shop, like Retic Arms. Perkins said he pretty much sold out of most of his inventory the past few weeks.
“I have my loyal customers, and most of them are stocked,” he said.
Security and ensuring calm was also a concern for Kelley. He thanked the Frederick Police Department for helping monitor activity around the store the past couple of weeks.
“We had a couple days where it looked like Best Buy on Black Friday. ... When you’re dealing with a product we sell, sometimes it’s nice to have a badge present once in a while,” Kelley said.
He and others, however, said it’s important that all gun owners know how to use their weapons, especially first-time buyers.
That included Wilson, who estimated that 40 percent of his customers in the last few weeks have been first-time buyers.
“There’s more to it for us than just selling a gun to somebody because they want one,” he said. “They have to be going to responsible citizens, and people have to know what they’re doing.”