Gun sales in Colorado spike by 227%, overwhelming CBI with background checks, and yet, crime is going down

Gun sales in Colorado spike by 227%, overwhelming CBI with background checks, and yet, crime is going down

The business of boomsticks is a’booming right now

VicesApril 09, 2020 By Will Brendza

The shelves were all but empty at Hammer Down Firearms in Wheatridge, when I walked through the door. The handgun cases were barren: only a few handguns were still there, gleaming under the display lights. The rifle racks lining the walls behind the counter were similarly barren.

“We normally keep about 100 handguns out, but things have been kind of crazy lately as you can see.” The co-owner of the shop, Mike Rickert says, when I asked him how things had been in the store. “Since March 11th we’ve pretty much sold through our entire inventory.”

I looked around and counted less than twenty pistols. The place had been picked clean. Even their ammunition stocks were looking a little malnourished. “It’s impossible to find 9mm rounds anywhere in Denver,” he tells me.

The panic buying began on March 11th, he says, and continued pretty much through the end of the month. His small store was packed with as many as 30 people at once through that madness.

It seems that everyone was so worried about the toilet paper disappearing from the shelves they didn’t realize that firearms and ammunition, naturally, were being bought up just as fast. People wanted to arm up in the face of what looked to them like the apocalypse, so they lined up to get their hands on some heat: Liberals, conservatives, long-time gun-owners and first-time owners, all.

And, without gun shows like the Tanner Gun Show to shop locally at, gun stores and hunting retail stores exploded with all that business. Customers swarmed stores like Cabela’s and shops like Hammer Down, and left them looking like a locust storm had just passed through.

Applications for FBI background checks (which are required in Colorado for every firearm sale) skyrocketed by 227%. Normally those background checks will take less than an hour. Right now, though, they take about 24 hours. A week ago, it took three or four days. It’s more than the CBI has ever had to deal with their history.

But even with that kind of backlog, according to Fox31 Denver more than 14,000 firearms were sold in a single week in Colorado.

That’s a lot of guns. That’s a lot of Coloradoans armed and ready for … well, whatever might happen. And many of those purchases went to first-time gun owners. You can argue that’s a good thing or a bad one — it could really go either way — but, it’s definitely good for local businesses like Rickert’s. When the state dubbed gun shops as essential businesses, they offered a lot of local shops some salvation from hardship — and perhaps even closure.

Not everyone sees it as a positive, though. To many, it is an outrage that gun retailers have been listed as “essential” and are allowed to continue operating. While a deadly virus ravages our cities and our coasts, killing as many as 1,900 Americans in a day, guns are not only available, but selling like hotcakes. And that gives many people The Fear.

Here’s the thing, though: as COVID-19 has escalated all around us over the last few weeks, crime rates across the nation have also plummeted. Police in large cities across the US are reporting fewer major crimes, and fewer arrests for minor ones. Whether that’s because the public feels a greater sense of kinship right now, or because we aren’t allowed to leave our homes, is debatable. Regardless, it shows that people aren’t using their guns for malicious or criminal ends.

Not yet at least.

And I would feel safe wagering that most of the people who went into Cabelas or Hammer Down Firearms, and panic-bought all of Rickert’s handguns and rifles, weren’t doing so with the intention of shooting their neighbors and stealing their Charmin. Most of them were probably looking for a sense of protection — and not even necessarily from other people, but from the uncertainty and fearfulness of these times. Guns make some people feel safe — whether they ever need to use them or not.

Which really strikes the nut of this whole story: People are scared. They want protection. And for people like Rickert, who are here to sell it to them, business is booming.

It’s the American way.