Coronavirus

Gun stores see increase in sales amid COVID-19 concerns

ISP grapples with influx of firearm transfer requests

A small crowd of people gather outside Marengo Guns in the first half hour of business on Monday in Marengo.  A big weekend sale, combined with social distance measures, caused some residents concern, seeing a line snake around the building over the weekend.
A small crowd of people gather outside Marengo Guns in the first half hour of business on Monday in Marengo. A big weekend sale, combined with social distance measures, caused some residents concern, seeing a line snake around the building over the weekend.

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The term “home protection” has a double meaning for gun owners abiding by state orders to hunker down in the midst of COVID-19 concerns.

Firearms owners throughout the state are not only taking steps to protect themselves from the contagious respiratory disease – they’re also guarding their homes as they practice social distancing. It’s not unusual to see an uptick in firearm sales this time of year, said Bert Irslinger Jr., owner of Second Amendment Sports in McHenry.

That’s especially true surrounding presidential elections, when voters might feel uncertain about the future of their gun ownership rights, he said. Still, the foot traffic that Irslinger’s shop has received in the past few weeks can only be described as “unprecedented,” he said, attributing part of the spike in sales to widespread fear surrounding COVID-19.

“This actually occurred before the shelter-in-place order,” Irslinger said. “I think it’s probably a number of things which include: it’s normally a bigger season and then you take into account the fear out there in the public and fear about the shelter-in-place [order].”

The line outside Marengo Gun Shop on Monday wrapped around the building, where customers were asked to wait at least 6 feet apart from one another. The demand for firearm transfers, a request that must be approved by Illinois State Police before any gun sale is complete, has put a snag in the system, too. ISP Sgt. Jacqueline Cepeda said that the police agency is working hard to meet the high demand of requests tied to residents’ Firearm Owner Identification and gun purchases.

“Regarding the Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program, the Firearms Services Bureau has experienced a high volume of submissions since Friday, March 13,” Cepeda said in an official statement on behalf of ISP. “Through March 18, the FSB had received 18,980 inquiries. FSB is working to process these requests as efficiently as possible to ensure a timely response.”

Stores including Second Amendment Sports, Guns-N-Such in McHenry, Marengo Gun Shop and GAT Guns in East Dundee are considered an essential service and have chosen to remain open throughout the shelter in place. Others, such as On-Target Range and Tactical Training Center in Crystal Lake, have opted to close until April 8. Some services can be made available by appointment only, according to the business’s Facebook page.

The thinking behind the rush to buy firearms appears to be twofold, said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. On one hand, residents want to protect their homes and families against intruders, he said.

Most of the firearm purchases at Second Amendment Sports have been “home protection and concealed-carry style pistols,” although there has been an increase in sales across the board, Irslinger said.

In addition to home protection, some are buying out of fear, uncertainty, and the sense of security that comes with being prepared, Pearson said.

“’What happens if the society breaks down?’ and ‘Will I be able to defend myself?’ ” Pearson said, referencing questions the ISRA has received throughout the past weeks.

In McHenry, Gun-n-Such employee Shirley Sivertsen agreed that customers want to feel they’re prepared for whatever is to come.

“They don’t know what’s happening with things,” Sivertsen said. “They’re in a whole new world and they’re fearful.”

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