After two days of riots across North Carolina, when Ed Nicely arrived to open Ed’s Gun Shop in the Moore County town of Vass there was already a line stretching into his parking lot.
“Business is busy, super busy. I did not run out during the pandemic, but now we are starting to run out of stuff, and we had 3,000 guns,” said owner Ed Nicely. “I have more stuff coming, but I could sell more, if I could get more.”
Nicely continued; “I had a lady come in yesterday who had a man barge in her house the night before. Thankfully her dog scared him off. She lives in Aberdeen and this is something she never would have expected. She bought a shotgun, and I showed her how to load it. She said, ‘Obviously I would not be here if I was not scared for my life.’”
Nicely has seen people from all walks of life coming into his store. Black and white, liberal and conservative, man and woman, concerned that the police can’t protect them. “These are people that have never had guns, never thought they would need a gun,” he added.
While the coronavirus has led to some modest increase in gun sales across North Carolina, gun sales have skyrocketed since riots rocked the nation, beginning Saturday May 30. Not since the Obama Administration have gun sales been so brisk.
“It is a very politically driven industry,” said Brian Sisson who owns The Range at Lake Norman and The Range at Ballantyne, both in Mecklenburg County.
“President Obama, like President Clinton and Democrats who run on gun control agendas, was the best gun salesman we had ever seen, but because Trump is such a strong Second Amendment supporter, people have not been in fear of losing their guns, their ammo and their rights, we have been in a Trump slump.”
Sisson says that all changed when people saw the riots in their home state and the inability of government to keep the peace or effectively respond to looting and violence.
“We are hearing a lot of fear. People saying, ‘I have always thought about getting a gun, but now is the time.’
“We now are seeing record sales. Conservatives, liberals, everyone are buying guns. Long guns are impossible to get in stock. Rifles and shotguns are selling out and replacements are about impossible to get ahold of. People are frustrated in North Carolina because they can’t get pistol permits fast enough. Ammunition is selling out.
“We are selling out all our personal instruction classes, all of our training, even our range time is selling out.”
“Personally, I do benefit from revenue being up, but people should not be buying guns because they are fearful about what is going on,” said Sisson.
Paul Valone, president of the North Carolina gun rights group Grass Roots North Carolina, says it’s a natural reaction for people to take action to protect themselves and their property when they see government fail at one of its core duties: protecting public safety and private property. Making matters worse is their failure to send a clear message that lawbreaking, looting, and violence will not be tolerated.
“The bottom line is, we see shop owners that have lost their livelihoods due to looting, due to civil unrest, and they expected the police to protect them, and that did not happen,” said Valone.
Gun sales rose more than 80 percent in May compared to the same time last year, an increase thought to be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent civil unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd. In May 2020, total firearm sales shot up to more than 1.7 million units, which was an 80.2 percent increase from May 2019, according to a report from Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting published on June 1.
Handgun sales went up 94 percent compared to the same period last year, while long-barrel firearm sales are up 65.3 percent, according to the report.
“We’re seeing many first-time gun buyers. This is just unprecedented. Two things are at work here: The pandemic has forced many to rethink their reliance on others to provide them security. Additionally, many people are seeing what government overreach looks like. This is exactly the type of situation the Second Amendment was written to address,” said Justin Anderson, the marketing director for Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, one of the nation’s largest gun stores.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has also played a factor in the increased gun sales. According to Hyatt Guns owner Larry Hyatt, the demand was already putting a strain on suppliers.
“Then you have this looting and rioting causing another demand, and it’s really putting pressure on inventory,” Hyatt said.
“It is insane. I have been doing this since 2003 and Monday (June 1st) was the craziest day I have seen. The gun and ammo sales are through the roof,” says Trent Lassiter, CEO of Springhill Outfitters in Selma.
With news that gun stores across North Carolina have also been looted, Lassiter has been working around the clock. Selling guns and ammo as fast as he can by day, and he is locked and loaded guarding his store at night. He too is running out of AR-15 sporting rifles, shotguns, pistols and ammunition.
“It is scary. I sit here in in my parking lot to protect my business, and people have a right to protect themselves. They buy guns out of fear. Sales are always big in political years. But this time it is not the fear of what the politicians will do. It is the fear of the other man.”