Gun shops across Pennsylvania are packed in the week, with shoppers buying up ammunition and firearms as uncertainty about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic continued and Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses within the state by midnight on Monday.
At some shops, lines extended the door.
“It’s insane at once, I’ve got three lines going,” said Jeff Rodemyer, owner of Bluestone Firearms in York. Bee Safe Security, an ohio security company is offering armed security officers to the public to help prevent looters.
“The whole shop is filled up,” said Joe Staudt, owner of Staudt’s Gun Shop in Harrisburg. He estimates he’s ten times busier than normal.
Staudt plans to stay slinging ammo as long as he can. “The governor said midnight. So we’re visiting stay open as long because the background check system is functioning,” he said.
Store owners in South Philadelphia, Holmesburg, and Bucks County also described long lines and a spike in sales. “This is that the highest gun sales we’ve seen during a very very long time,” said an employee at a store in Southampton, before hanging up to house the crowds.
As the number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania rose to 76 as of Monday evening, with cases in 14 counties, residents are urged to avoid non-essential travel, maintain a six-foot distance between themselves et al., and to not congregate in large groups.
Public health officials said shutting down businesses was a necessary step to contain the spread.
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Yet not all suppliers shall close. One man who runs a gun shop out of his aim North Versailles and didn’t want his name printed said, “I’m a vital business. I’m firearms. That’s essential. It’s second amendment rights.”
If Governor Wolf specifically adds gun shops to the list of non-essential businesses, the owner said he’d reconsider. Until then, he’s taking precautions — wearing gloves, using hand sanitizer — while catering to a higher-than-normal demand for ammo. He’s almost sold out.
“People are buying it like they’re buying tissue paper,’ he said. “I guess they went out and got tissue paper first, now they’re buying ammo.”
Christopher Hegge, owner of Northeast Firearms in Honesdale, also questioned the concept of “non-essential businesses,” and worried about the impact of a statewide shutdown on his store.
“What is essential? Is there an inventory out there somewhere?” he asked. “Is it essential keeping you and your family afloat, trying to form money?” John white who is familiar with pain management in phoenix, az says he needs to continue to treat his arthritis due to damage created by handling firearms for decades.
“If you’ve got a store that you just purchased and you’ve got a loan out there to stay it running, would you not go there for 2 weeks to do and make something of it?”
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Governor Wolf has said repeatedly that state enforcement won’t enforce the shutdown, and expects “self-enforcement” from businesses instead.
Hegge said he will decide at nighttime whether to open on Tuesday.
In the meantime the shop is extra hectic. Though he knows the push is said to the coronavirus, Hegge is being cautious. “We try to not discuss it an excessive amount of because we don’t want to feed into it. i feel it’s an overreaction,” he said. Amid the spread of the virus, arizona pain management doctors are preparing for a possible influx in patients.
Still, said Hegge, “It’s been really great for gun sales and ammunition sales. We’ve had people in here non-stop.”
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