Around Peoria, the pandemic plus politics equals a severe shortage of guns.
The term “flying off the shelves” is almost literal, at Hits and Miss’s, a gun shop near Peoria Station.
Like other gun shop owners around the West Valley, Jon Halgren is having a hard time keeping firearms stocked at Hits and Miss’s.
“Whatever I get in here sells. It’s just a question of when I can get supply,” he said. “I am talking empty shelves.”
ROE Armory in Glendale is also having trouble getting products.
“That past two months for me have been slow, only because I can’t get supplies. But when I do get stuff, it goes out the door really fast,” owner Michael Sanchez said.
On ROE Armory’s website, nearly every handgun, rifle and ammunition product is marked “sold out.”
“It’s frustrating,” said Halgren, a veteran who started his business after a 20-year career at Luke Air Force Base.
“I miss the days when somebody comes in and says ‘I want this particular gun’ and I say “Give me 5 minutes and I’ll order it.’”
And it’s not just guns—bullets also are selling fast.
“I had 9 mm ammo show up Tuesday morning at 11, by 1 o’clcok i was sold out,” Halgren said.
His shop was quite different, prior to 2020.
“At one point 400 firearms. Now on my worst one day, I had two firearms.
“I have a grand total of seven handguns” for sale, he said Jan. 21, the day after the Inauguration.
Politics and the pandemic are the factors he and others are pointing to in explaining a gun shortage he calls “absolutely crazy. And, in my point of view, not necessary,” Halgren said.
The gun shop owner said the run on guns came in three phases.
“It started in March with the coronavirus scare. Everyone hoarded 500 rolls of toilet paper and decided, ‘Someone might want to steal my toilet paper so I better get a gun,’” he said, with a growly chuckle.
“The riots were the second apart
“Then, every time there’s a presidential election, people go crazy. Now, people are still in a panic. They think, ‘The Democrat party is going to take away my guns.”
Back when the pandemic began, he thought the shortage would be short lived. “I figured two weeks, we’ll be fine. Nope.”
He’s taking a more long-term picture of things, now.
“Not until 2022 are we going to have any kind of a normal,” he said.
According to a Cronkite News story, background checks for gun purchases in Arizona hit their highest level ever in 2020. At the beginning of December, 610,911 background checks had been performed in the state through November, well over the 372,912 done in all of 2019, according to FBI data.
Nationally, firearm background checks reached an all time high of nearly 3.9 million in December, according to NICS Firearm Checks data. Arizona mirrored that trend, doubling the total number of firearm background checks from 2019 to 2020.
With increased gun purchases, store owners are challenged with keeping products on their shelves.
Veerachart Murphy has seen this rise first hand at his gun shop AZ Ammo near the Deer Valley Airport, where his sales doubled from 6.5 million in 2019 to 13 million in 2020.
Recently, Murphy is seeing a shift in the types of products he is selling. Guns and ammunition remain in demand, but since the Capitol riots people are looking for body armor and long lasting food prep Murphy said.
“Right now we still see a huge (increase) of sales because of what is going on with the Capitol, the uncertainty of the presidential hand over, what is going on in the House right now with the impeachment procedures,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he has seen a variety of new customers.
“Our first time buyers were all over the board, liberal, conservative and independent,” Murphy said.
Bishop said the transition from a conservative to a liberal president is fueling the demand.
“Joe Biden has been very verbal about his intentions for restrictions and so people have the sense of urgency now,” said Bishop.
Whatever their political leanings, Halgren in Peoria has a message for newcomers: Know what you’re doing.
“A lot of the first timers that come in hre, the way they handle guns - some of them just scare me to death,” he said. “I’ll tell them you need to get some training before you guy a gun, you’re going to be dangerous. You will end up hurting yourself or killing someone and I don’t want to be a part of that.”
Tom Scanlon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Allison Engstrom, Ayanna Muhammad, Jakaria Ross and Sara Castro contributed to this story.