Ray Jones left the Atlanta Range and Ordnance with a new gun and ammunition, wanting to protect his stockpile as he prepares for a new lifestyle amid the spread of coronavirus.
“If you can't defend your toilet paper, you know, what are you going to do?” said Jones, on a sunny Thursday afternoon outside the gun store, with its own gun range, in Coweta County. He wants to be prepared, he said, for whatever comes as cities, counties and states across America recommend its citizens stay-at-home.
Across the state of Georgia, limited supplies of ammunition have residents desperately trying to stock up, lining up before stores are open and zigzagging across town to find supplies, as the number of cases statewide continue to rise. Some have lined up for hours, this shop's store owner told GPB News, to be the first to grab some of the latest shipments from suppliers.
With a 34% increase this February in background checks requests, according to the FBI and National Instant Criminal Background Check System, stores are also seeing a delay in processing new gun owners. In January, as news spread of the coronavirus outbreak in China, officials saw a 25% increase.
Gary DeGeorge, the owner of Atlanta Range and Ordnance, saw the turnaround time for background checks slow down this month at his store. Even with that slowdown, the store has sold out of all their firearms, he said. “We are maintaining inventory levels, but there's [been] a stress on the supply,” added DeGeorge.
For now, they have had to limit one to two boxes of ammunition per customer.
Inside the store, a handful of customers told GPB News they had come from Atlanta because they were unable to find ammunition in their local stores, choosing to drive forty-five minutes south to expand their search to Newnan.
Mel Williams, a customer from Fairburn, who had driven nearly thirty minutes to the store, said that he was buying a few extra rounds of ammunition to ease his tensions during the COVID-19 outbreak, but the bullets he was looking for weren’t in stock.
Williams took time, while at the gun store, to shoot in the range, where he got some extra practice for what he himself calls the corona apocalypse.
“I think a lot of people are just panicking because they're not sure what's going to happen. Most people are afraid of what they don't know,” Amy Reves, a store employee, suggested.
So much so that business in the past week has gone from a surplus to a shortage within one week's time at the store. DeGeorge saw his sales numbers grow exponentially, making seven times more sales than he normally would.
Eighteen vehicles were in the parking lot one Saturday this March even before the store opened, for example, he told GPB News.
“We're seeing new buyers, new people, who you know have realized the need [for] firearms and ammunition for themselves to protect their family or their homes,” said DeGeorge.
Jessica Schefield, a truck driver, was in the store getting her pink pistol cleaned and because she is alone on the road, she carries her gun all the time. Earlier in the week, she and her husband, who have five guns between them, went through their weapons, she said, cleaning them. “Just in case, you know, I gotta use it,” she explained.
Earlier in the week, she said, she and her husband went to a gun shop called Georgia Arms in the town of Villa Rica but found a line wrapped around the street corner just to get inside. Once they were able to get in the store, they bought more than they had initially planned to because of the constant conversation around the coronavirus.
“We went there maybe to just get a hundred rounds or 200 rounds. And after seeing what everybody else bought, my husband bought a thousand rounds for each gun,” said Schefield.