Panic buying takes many forms in a pandemic or as the result of a substantial change in the laws that govern one’s daily life. This year we all saw items of need go into a “panic state.” A few months ago, the nation was on an epic search for yeast after having successfully maneuvering through the toilet paper raid of mid-April. We all watched as store shelves lay empty. First the eggs go, then the milk, and still to this day it is hard to find Clorox-style wipes. But the granddaddy, the elephant in the panic-buy lounge, right next to the air fryers, is guns. Apparently, while some of us were worried about baking bread, others were worried about weapons. When confronted with the notion that guns and ammo are suddenly in short supply, the knee-jerk reactionary response immediately pegs this as the result of crazy right-wing conspiracy types. Yes, part of that can be true, but they did so along with first-time gun owners at an alarming rate. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, in 2020, nearly five million new owners joined the 100 million-plus gun owners already in the U.S. After asking more and more questions, there’s a plethora of answers as to why there are gun and ammo shortages in America.
The Paper. surveyed almost every gun store in Albuquerque, and at least half of the gun shops called are out of stock of not only AR-15 ammo, the .223 and the 5.56, but also running low on nearly all popular ammo. Small shops seemed to be hurting the worst. Statements like: “We may get a few boxes in Friday” or “Next week we should get a few in”, are now the everyday answer. Even the big dog in town, Calibers, was completely out of both AR ammo sizes, with their sales rep Ken stating that they have nearly a million dollars in back-ordered ammo, paid for and waiting to be delivered. Arnie Gallegos at ABQ Guns said their business is fair, but he’s getting only a portion of their usual orders for ammunition in. He chalked up the real issue to a change in how producers manufacture their products. “It just doesn’t make sense at times why they don’t still manufacture all the components. But the manufacturing world isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago.” When you have many sub-contractors providing elements, one hiccup in the chain can cause massive delays.
Stores like Dick’s and Walmart no longer carry firearms in N.M. The new kid on the block, Big R in Bernalillo, had a two-page document listing various ammo types that were not available at the moment for purchase. Cabela’s was the only place checked that had some ammo in stock; but as the store rep said, “It’ll be gone within the hour, I figure.”
Remember a few years back when the right was upset that Obama was going to take their guns away? That was the last time a large panic-buy happened in the industry. What happened then was the manufacturers ramped up production, only to be left holding the bag once the Trump administration came in and the panic-buying stopped. Soon that rush to fulfill the apparent need resulted in a glut of material on the market during the Trump era. Then, COVID hit. And then the Black Lives Matter movement began to catch fire. It was those triggers, as well as Biden leading the nomination, that again drove gun owners to the stores to stock up and new gun owners finding their way into brick and mortars. Online gun sites have seen a huge increase in traffic as well.
Ron Peterson Firearms, for instance, was a local legend for nearly 40 years. This summer, the owner closed his doors and moved entirely online, selling his stock of guns and ammo through auction sites. According to Diane Johnson from Ron Peterson, COVID only quickened the writing on the wall. “We had to let go of some employees. We just didn’t have the sales income,” she said. But the online sales have been a boon for them recently. “We’ve done really well online. Everything is online for us now, and we are doing brisk business, far more than in the springtime,’’ Johnson added. Online sales is where gun owners will pay premium prices to get what they want.
This is where the intersection of fear-mongering, actual business regulations and the average citizen collide. President Biden has stated in his goals, as it pertains to firearms, he would also like to ban internet sales of guns. His administration would like to turn existing guns into SMART guns and ensure all weapons made from this point on are SMART weapons as well. This could help ease some registration laws that may be forthcoming, but many feel it is against their personal beliefs.
So the solution is just to make more, correct? Supply and demand. Not that easy. For instance, a silent factor in this shortage is that many manufacturers had to shut down or make major adjustments in factories to adhere to COVID protocols. This has caused a disruption in the supply chain, one that has not totally recouped as the numbers rise from state to state. One take on it is that gun ammo suppliers are in no hurry to sell out. It’s possible some suppliers are playing a long-term game. If there are millions of new customers, all of which need the ammo, why not keep the constant limited release cycle? Profit margins stay high and there is no floor to fall out from under them as it did four years ago.
So the gun run may be here to stay. It’s an issue wrought with personal opinion, legal rulings and, apparently, fear. Enough fear that five million Americans suddenly feel like they need to own a gun for the first time. For right now, if you’re looking to buy a gun and/or some ammo, you’re gonna have to look far and wide before you can pull that trigger.