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Gun store owners have seen their inventories dwindle as people flock to buy weapons and ammunition. Florida Today


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Panic across the country as coronavirus spreads has caused people to empty store shelves in droves — clearing out everything from toilet paper to poultry.

Brevard County grocery stores aren’t the only ones selling out as gun shops in the area have seen an “unprecedented” increase in sales, according to owners.

More: Coronavirus in Florida updates: Number of cases, deaths continue to increase as Congress reaches $2 trillion stimulus deal

According to gun industry and sales website ammo.com, Florida has the second-highest volume of ammunition sales in the nation, with sales have jumping 235 percent between Feb. 23 and March 15 statewide. 

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“It is non-stop,” said Dennis Russo, owner of Affordable Gun and Pawn in Melbourne. “We’ve had people out the door all day to buy guns.” 

Before fears surrounding coronavirus ramped up in the United States over the past two weeks, Russo said he had around 400 firearms in stock. He now has fewer than 200 left. 

More: Coronavirus Brevard County updates: 9 confirmed cases reported in county as numbers continue to increase statewide

Handguns, AR-style rifles, hunting rifles and shotguns: the types of guns flying off the shelves run the gamut, he said. 

And as for ammunition?

“I’ve sold out of it three times,” Russo said. “I’m supposed to get some in soon.”

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“People just want to be protected just in case,” Russo said. “They don’t want to be caught without something to protect themselves if they need it.”

Ethan Sansoni, the general manager at Frog Bones in Melbourne, has a similar story.

“This is unlike anything else. It’s unprecedented,” Sansoni said. “It’s in the same category as the frenzy that you’re seeing in other industries like toilet paper.”

Background checks have been the biggest indicator of the high demand for guns, according to Sansoni.

On a typical day, a background check takes about 20 minutes, he said. Starting last week, customers began having to wait longer. First it was an hour, then two or three.

Pretty soon, Sansoni said he was having customers wait a full day for background checks to be processed.

According to Sansoni, his customers aren’t arming themselves for one particular reason but more for a security amid a general sense of fear and unease that’s gripping the world right now. 

“It doesn’t take a doctor in psychology to see the fear,” he said. “The reality of people losing income and jobs or the possibility of governmental lockdown or martial law.”

That fear, he says, is driving people to seek an extra layer of protection against an uncertain future.

Whether it’s first-time gun owners — which many of his recent customers are — or stocking up on ammunition, “there’s not been a typical day in the past 10 days.” 

Contact Vazquez at tvazquez@floridatoday.com, 321-917-7491 or on Twitter @tyler_vazquez. Support his work by subscribing to FloridaToday.com.  

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