Fear of election unrest fuels Memphis-area gun sales first sparked by protests and pandemic – Commercial Appeal

Posted: November 2, 2020 at 1:54 am


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Days from a contentious presidential election, firearms dealers and trainers in the Memphis area are reporting a level of interest from first-time gun owners previously unseen in their careers.

"When I say first time buyer, I mean every demographic you can imagine, every ethnicity you can imagine, they're coming inbuying one or more guns. Women are coming in too, a lot of women," saidGreg Richardson, a salesman and gunsmith at Classic Arms in Cordova.

In a typical year, Richardson estimates roughly 3,500 firearms are sold out of the tiny Cordova shop.

With a couple of months to go in 2020, Richardson said his store has already clocked around 5,000 gun sales. Ammunitionsales, he said, have been "in the millions. Literally millions of rounds of ammo."

A gun vault sits on the counter Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, at Classic Arms in Cordova.(Photo: Max Gersh / The Commercial Appeal)

The surge in firearm and ammunition sales from new and seasoned gun owners alike may be limited by one factor availability. Richardson said on average, a new gun for sale only lasts about 18 hours in the shop's display case before it is purchased.

There is more demand, but the supply is also down, said Monte Dabb of Dabbs Gun and Pawn in Southaven.

It's not abnormal for gun sales to spike around presidential elections an analysis of federal background check data by the New York Times reported in 2016 showed immense spikes in gun sales related to President Barack Obama's election.

Events that renew national conversation aroundgun regulations, like the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, also drive sales, The Times found.

Danny Metcalf, owner of Bullfrog Corner Pawn & Guns in Horn Lake said he's heard similar fears from regulars who come into his shop.

People are saying that if Biden gets elected everyone thinks hes going to cut the 2ndAmendment and do control gun, Metcalf said, noting he thinks his gun sales in part reflectthis concern.

The closer to the election we get the more guns were selling, Metcalf said.

This time, trainers say that the sustained level of interest started with concerns about economic collapse as the pandemic coursed through the U.S. and have stayed elevated as concerns of political violence hold steady in the Memphis-area populous.

Gun sales are up nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic and women are looking for firearm protection. Video Elephant

"Certainly elections are driving a lot of it," saidDonald Gregory, a licensed trainer at USA Training Academy in Bartlett. Like Richardson, Gregory said protests, and people's concerns about riots spilling into their communities are driving sales.

Training classes filled up immediately at USA Training Academy, Gregory said. "And they've stayed full. Everyone is so worried, upset, ornery. It's never been this bad in the U.S., and I was around for the Vietnam War."

One major retail source for firearms, Walmart Inc., opted to pull firearms and ammunition from storedisplays, citing isolated examples of civil unrest as the reason. The company reversed itsdecision a day later.

Beyond fears of Election Day violence, firearm trainers report other concerns behind the rush to carry.

Richardson noticedAsian-American were coming into the Cordova store, concerned about their personal safety amid dialed up rhetoric faultingChina for the pandemic.

"Once people started blaming China for COVID, I started seeing Asian-American customers come in, a lot of them first-time buyers. I'm talking little old grandmas too," Richardson said.

Jonathan Cross, a trainer withDauntless Tactical Training, said the demand for firearm training has been so significant in 2020, he was able to leave his full-time job in another industry.

But Cross sees something else besides wariness around elections or protests.

"It started out with COVID," Cross said. "Because people are concerned about the strain on society, economically. But I've also had a lot of people who are concerned about protecting themselves, in the event law enforcement won't be able to provide adequate protection for their neighborhoods."

Some new gun owners, Cross said, are worried about threats coming from law enforcement themselves.

When Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee introduced the idea of constitutional carry back in late February, Cross was a dissenting voice among firearms trainers who expressed grave concern about the end of a permit process in the state.

Voters in Tennessee share their thoughts on the importance of the 2020 election. Nashville Tennessean

Cross' reasoning, he said, had to do with what he called "the illusion of training," meaning training requirements were substandard. Having a permit to carry does not always equate to a well-trained and responsible gun owner.

Now with ownership surging across the U.S. and the Memphis area, Cross worries about the sheer volume of new gun owners being rushed through training.

"As far as the large uptick in new gun owners, people have not been under any disillusionment that they knew what to do with their gun," Cross said. "But I've had to teach them that the permit only teaches you about the law."

Cross emphasizes the need for constant, thorough training with his clients. But, he's not convinced that's the case with every gun instructor and gun range operator.

"I've seen a certain level of irresponsibility though, on that part of the traditional gun ranges. The traditional ranges are taking advantage of this large uptick, and they've become puppy mills for permits. Right now, it's low-hanging fruit," Cross said.

Commercial Appeal reporter Ted Evanoff contributed to this report.

Micaela A. Watts is a breaking news reporter, and can be reached via email at micaela.watts@commercialappeal.com.

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Fear of election unrest fuels Memphis-area gun sales first sparked by protests and pandemic - Commercial Appeal

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November 2nd, 2020 at 1:54 am

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