Local gun sales rising amidst uncertainty


A global pandemic and protests of racial injustice and riots have led many in Jackson County to seek reassurance from an unlikely ally.

Three of Seymour’s specialized firearms dealers, Bite the Bullet on East Second Street, Acme Sports on East Tipton Street and JW Guns on West Tipton Street, have all noticed a similar sales trend: Large spikes in sales since March.

This increase is not limited to Jackson County. This is a nationwide trend. Many states, including Virginia, California and Texas, have reported large increases in sales.

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Mark Hopkins, owner of Bite the Bullet, said sales during this time of the year normally are declining before increasing during the fall and winter, but this year has been a bit different.{p dir=”ltr”}“Under a normal year, we have increased business two times a year. One of them is the fall, which is kind of a culmination of hunting seasons and Christmas. Then there’s usually a lull, and then when tax season comes around, that’s the second busy time we see as a business every year,” he said.{p dir=”ltr”}For his store, Hopkins said he really noticed the increase in April the week of the 12th.

“That week is probably the most intense week I’ve seen in nine years in the business,” he said.{p dir=”ltr”}In terms of what exactly is increasing, Hopkins said his biggest increases have been in sales of handguns and handgun ammunition and rifles and rifle ammunition.

Joe Hardesty, owner of Acme Sports, cited similar sales patterns.

He said while the increase in sales helps them to make money, the demand is beginning to outweigh the supply.

“Unfortunately, stuff is flying out of here faster than we can get it in at the moment,” Hardesty said.

Supply chains have been hit hard. Not only has demand increased substantially, but many factories worldwide were forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a lot of supply chain issues, and a lot of it comes back to the coronavirus part of it, where a lot of the factories and manufacturers were shut down,” he said. “Everybody’s just kind of scrambling around trying to figure out how, from start to finish, to get it in somebody’s hands. I guess it’s not a bad problem to have, but at the same time, it causes a lot of headaches.”

For Jeff Walters, a former officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and the owner of JW Guns, he first opened his business in March, just before Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his stay-at-home order.

“We were open for about a week and a half before the pandemic hit,” he said. “Of course, we had a decent size inventory when we started out. Our first week and a half, I was thinking, ‘This is going pretty well’ and then the pandemic hit, and it all just sold out so quick.”

That executive order labeled gun stores essential businesses, so all three stores were able to remain operating at normal hours.

The owners say quite a few of their recent sales are to first-time firearm owners.

“We’ve seen a lot of first-time buyers coming in, and even some people that I personally know that never would’ve purchased a firearm are buying them now,” Hardesty said.

Hardesty attributes this increase in new owners to recent happenings.

“People were running scared with fear of ‘What are we going to do?’ ‘How are we going to protect ourselves?’ Minutes, seconds, it all counts and you can’t rely on the police to be there all the time, especially with everything going on, so people are looking for other alternatives to kind of protect themselves,” he said.

Hopkins said it’s not uncommon for sales spikes to be politically driven.

“What we’ve seen in the past for out of the ordinary sales would be an election cycle, like things are heating up in politics,” he said.

One example Hopkins gave was after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians proposed legislation restricting the ability to own an AR-15, a popular rifle similar to one of the weapons used in the attack. This led to an increase in AR-15 sales at his store.

Another example given was the 2016 presidential election. During debates, candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump often discussed issues regarding the Second Amendment. This led to fear that depending on who was elected, new, more restrictive legislation could be proposed. This ultimately increased sales during that time, Hopkins said.

Acme Sports also supplies weaponry and ammunition to law enforcement and government agencies, some local and some from neighboring states. This is another avenue of business Hardesty said has increased in recent months.

“Anything law enforcement or government usually comes through us, in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana,” he said.

For the new firearm owners, safety can be a concern. Acme Sports offers to help connect new buyers with safety trainers. Walters provides safety advice to new customers and plans to expand to hosting in-house training courses. Bite the Bullet offers in-house training, done by Nate Kemp, who is a certified firearms instructor and an officer at County Seat Conservation Club — South Central Gun Club in Jackson County.

The next time Bite the Bullet will be providing free safety instructions will be Saturday on its Facebook page.

With a presidential election around the corner and hunting seasons beginning in the fall and winter, Walters doesn’t expect things to slow down for too long.

“I’ve known for several years that whenever you have a presidential election, sales of firearms are good until at least they see who gets into office,” he said. “Things will probably slow down here in June and July, but then there’s the election and hunting season, so I see it being busy for the rest of the year.”

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