People are scared.

So they’re buying guns. Lots of them.

That’s according to gun shop owners in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and North Country of New Hampshire who say they’ve seen a dramatic increase in gun sales since the pandemic began in March.

“They’re up, considerably,” said Chris Haggett, who owns St. Michael’s Defense in St. Johnsbury.

“It’s been very busy,” said Josh D’Agnese, owner of the The Village Gun Store in Whitefield N.H.

“Through the roof,” said Trish Jones, owner of Green Mountain Sporting Goods in Irasburg. “This is one of the craziest times I’ve ever seen. A lot of individuals are concerned about safety.”

All three say the increase in gun sales is being driven primarily by fear in the time of COVID-19 and civil unrest across the country.

“They’re looking for more protection,” said Haggett. “Customers are worried about protecting themselves and their families.”

Gun shop owners also say they’ve noticed a big increase in sales to first time gun buyers and from customers from out-of-state.

“If you talk to anybody in real estate, we’ve had a huge influx of individuals coming up to their summer houses or their second homes and people buying real estate in Vermont,” said Jones. “I’ve had people from Delaware, I’ve had people from Michigan, I’ve had people from pretty much all over the U.S. moving to Vermont because of our way of life.”

The gun dealers say the law of supply and demand has also been a factor in both contributing to - and complicating - the sudden rise in gun sales locally and nationally.

“The limiting factor that we’re experiencing is product availability,” said Jones. “It’s been quite hard to get stuff in. Ammo is very limited and in short supply. Firearms are in short supply…”

“It’s been crazy,” said D’Agnese. “It’s kinda hard to get merchandise right now just because of how drained the industry is. Not to mention a lot of your manufacturers - whether it be ammunition, accessories or firearms - were closed for a while because everybody was shut down at the beginning for the the virus…And a lot of the industry has just been bled dry because everybody’s been buying so much. The demand for everything has gotten so high.”

D’Agnese said he thinks a lot of the the recent gun purchases are also being driven in-part by the same “panic buying” response by shoppers that occurred at the start of the pandemic.

“Once people start panic buying things no matter what it is - like we saw with toilet paper and everything else - people start panic buying guns too. People are worried - ‘I can’t get this stuff anymore. I’m not gonna be able to get this stuff for a while so I’m gonna buy it.’”

Jones said her customers have also said they were worried about how the changing demands on “short staffed” police agencies in Vermont might leave citizens unprotected during an emergency and about the possibility of change in political leadership in November and it’s possible effect on gun rights.

But Jones said she’s personally encouraged but one of the new trends she has seen with first time gun buyers this year.

“The one thing that I really am glad to see is they want training,” said Jones. “They want education. They’re taking firearm owner responsibility very seriously…If you want it for personal protection you need training. Don’t just buy it and throw it in a gun case. You need to train. You need to practice.”

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