COVID-19 lockdowns and most recently political and civil unrest have people on edge. Individuals are looking for ways to protect themselves in these unsettled times.
There are 5 million new gun owners in the US since 2019. High demands for firearms is causing both a gun and ammunition shortage.
The number of permits to carry nearly doubled in the state of Iowa from 2019 to 2020, with the Iowa Department of Public Safety reporting a jump from 44,166 to 87,269 permits issued.
Illinois saw a 94% increase in firearm owner identification (FOID) card applications during that same time period. These large increases are causing longer wait times for new applications in the state of Illinois.
“2020 has been absolutely insane,” Davenport Guns owner Jeanelle Westrom said.
As more customers are focused on protecting themselves with firearms, the store shelves have been empty.
“Where I usually have 50 guns in this case, there are about 4 now,” she said. “We will spend more time answering phone calls about ammo than anything else in the day.”
She said the club sets aside boxes of ammunition for gun club members, but those sold to customers go quickly. And as more people purchase firearms, the need for education increases. Westrom said their classes have been full at the store.
Iowa permit to carry instructor Eric Puryear said his classes filled up last year.
“During 2020, I trained more people than I had in the previous 9 years combined,” he said.
Puryear cites civil unrest for the increase in people seeking firearms.
“The rise of hate groups, the rise of racist rhetoric, and so they decided, it’s time for them to be able to defend themselves,” he said.
Westrom said people feel unsettled.
“First you had COVID-19, and lockdowns, and the toilet paper shortage. So people got nervous. People got scared,” she said. “Then came the peaceful protests, and the defund the police [rhetoric], which made a lot more people scared.”
Moline resident Victoria Tovar bought a gun for the first time in 2020 to keep her family safe.
“It definitely made me feel better knowing that I had my firearm with me in case something happens,” she said.
Westrom encouraged those seeking ammo to be patient as manufacturers work to keep up with demand.
“The only thing that we can do is keep a good relationship with our manufacturers. They know our needs,” she said.