As the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, gun sales in Oklahoma have risen. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses what gun shop owners are saying about the phenomenon, as well as the psychological reasons for this spike in firearms sales.
Drew Hutchinson: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Hi Russell, how are you?
Russell Ray: It’s good to be here, Drew. Thanks for having me.
Hutchinson: Absolutely. So this week, I’d like to talk about an interesting story from The Journal Record from this past week. We know from reports that as the coronavirus spreads, people rushed out to the store to buy products like non-perishable foods and toilet paper. But there’s another product that people are also rushing to purchase, and that’s guns. Gun shop owners in Oklahoma are reporting an increased demand for firearms. Russell, how could coronavirus be driving these gun sales?
Russell Ray: Well in the past, we’ve seen gun sales rise as a result of proposed gun control regulation. This time around, rising gun sales stem from a fear of social unrest created by the coronavirus pandemic. One gun shop owner told us people are afraid and scared of what might happen in a case of social unrest caused by an economic collapse.
Hutchinson: Austin Warfield, who was quoted in the story, said some of the people he’s seeing come into his shop over the last couple weeks aren’t “regulars.” First-time buyers are a significant part of his customer base. And at the time the article was written, Warfield said his shop had only one AR-15 left, and he said ammo is flying off the shelf as well.
Ray: That’s right. They’re running out of ammunition and only had 10 handguns left due to fear and concern over the coronavirus. We were told some of the people buying guns today have never owned a gun. He said they’re concerned about crime that might result as more people lose their jobs and file for unemployment.
Hutchinson: Right. So really, like you said a second ago, we’re dealing with two fears here: it’s the fear of the virus itself and the fear of social unrest that could be sparked by the virus. Journal Record reporter Chip Minty, who wrote the article, talked to an expert about the psychological effects of this pandemic.
Ray: That’s right. Chip talked to University of Oklahoma sociologist Constance Chapple. Chapple told us many people are experiencing a stronger sense of fear nowadays. With the uncertain times we’re living in right now, people are becoming increasingly anxious about the economy, their jobs, the stock market and of course their health.
Hutchinson: Right. So for some, those feelings of fear or helplessness may be spilling over to other fears involving lawlessness or anarchy. Chapple specializes in criminology, and he said that after hurricanes and other natural disasters, certain crimes like looting can be prevalent. But the coronavirus pandemic is a bit different.
Ray: That’s right. Instead of being forced from their homes and feeling vulnerable because of a disaster, most people are safe in their homes trying to avoid the virus. But some people may still feel vulnerable about their jobs and about their health. And Chapple, as you said who specializes in criminology, said a gun may make them feel less vulnerable.
Hutchinson: And Oklahoma City Attorney Brian Ted Jones said he’s worried about whether people will handle their firearms safely. He said it’s frightening to have so many people purchasing guns that aren’t required to have training.
Ray: Yes. We talked to Tim Shoopman. He’s the manager of H&H Gun Range in Oklahoma City. Shoopman said his store encourages all of its customers to enroll in classes and to use a firing range to become familiar with the gun they purchased. Shoopman said he’s seen a large increase in first-time gun buyers recently. He said it’s important to get trained, to practice and become proficient with the gun you purchase. In his words, you can’t just let the weapon sit there in a box.
Hutchinson: Russell, I want to thank you for talking with me today.
Ray: My pleasure, Drew. Thank you.
Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. The story we discussed today is available on JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you’re there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporters. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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