Coronavirus fears spur shoppers to wait in 2-hour line for firearms in New York

As fear over the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, grips the U.S., a diverse crowd spanning varying ages and ethnicities waited out a 2-hour line to purchase firearms and ammunition outside a Sloatsburg, New York, outdoor gear and weapons shop on Saturday.

Of 14 patient shoppers who chose to keep their identity private, 12 said they made Davis Sport Shop a destination Saturday to ensure protection during the U.S.’s coronavirus response. The weapons, they said, might be needed if virus scares cause social upheaval that threatened their lives or their property.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” a woman accompanied by her mother, and from a nearby suburban community about 30 miles outside New York City, told Yahoo Finance. “I got my firearm license a couple of years ago. I’m a mother of 3, home with my kids, by myself. I’m not panicking, but I worry because other people are panicking.”

Shoppers await entry into gun and ammunition retailer Davis Sport Shop in Sloatsburg, New York Saturday, March 21, 2020. Photo: Alexis Keenan/Yahoo Finance

‘I could rob you right now’

As of Sunday evening, New York State will remain mostly locked down, along with Illinois and California, as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. surged past 24,000, according to Johns Hopkins. As of Saturday, 56 people had died from COVID-19 in New York.

Asked from where the panic originated in her community, the mother of 3 said, Facebook (FB), explaining that her local neighborhood was not giving off a sentiment of heightened concern.

Another man said he was worried his local police force would be too preoccupied with handling virus-related mandates and emergencies to respond to petty crimes such as robbery and looting.

“I could rob you right now,” he said. “And they might not arrest me.”

Another, on his way out of the shop, carried a new purchase of a long rifle covered in a zippered case. Asked whether his purchase was in response to coronavirus, he said, “It definitely is.”

Shoppers were a mix between first-time buyers, and experienced gun owners wanting to add to their existing collections. They were also split on the general types of weapons they were seeking — some sought pistols, others intended to buy rifles.  

Three 20-something women who drove to the Davis shop together said they each planned to purchase a handgun for the first time. 

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/03/18: Times Square is sparsely populated due to ongoing coronavirus cases and fears. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“We drove all the way here from Long Island,” a woman in the group said.

Two male shoppers in their 50s said they were willing to stand in line because their efforts to purchase online had failed.

“They were wiped out,” one said. “I came here because I couldn’t find anything online.”

It’s no surprise that COVID may be fueling a similar stockpiling of weapons and thus a tempered ripple through publicly traded weapons and ammunition companies as has been the case in the wake of other national crises.

Stock in Smith & Wesson subsidiary American Outdoor Brands (AOBC) took a hit as public markets began to avalanche in early March, though rebounded the past week to end Friday’s tradition session at $7.70 per share, healthily above its 52-week low of $5.41.

Vista Outdoor Inc. (VSTO), parent company to multiple ammunition companies, bounced in similar fashion this week, closing Friday at $7.00 per share, between its 52-week range of $4.29 and $10.42.

Strum, Ruger & Co. (RGR), which manufactures and sells pistols, rifles and revolvers, finished Friday’s trading session at $45.00 per share, comfortably near the midpoint of its 52-week range of $38.44 and $57.86.

Read more:

What to do if you get laid off from work due to COVID-19

A million small business workers could lose jobs due to coronavirus

Alexis Keenan is a New York-based reporter for Yahoo Finance and former litigation attorney.

Follow Alexis Keenan on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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