Mike Solano wasn’t like so many others who stood in line last week outside Rosedale Highway gun store Second Amendment. That is, he already had a gun at home and .40-caliber ammunition — just not enough for what he considers a comfortable level of protection.
“People (who) can’t get no water, can’t get no food, might try to take mine,” the west Bakersfield family man said.
Bakersfield residents are loading up on ammunition and firearms in preparation for worst-case scenarios during the coronavirus pandemic.
And like bathroom tissue and other commodities people stockpile when they’re worried, demand is outpacing supply.
Local gun store workers say the scene around town is similar in some respects to runs on ammo in years past: Customers worried about national events stop in or call ahead to find out when shipments arrive then buy as much as they can.
“I’ve been doing this over 20 years and this is the craziest time that I’ve seen,” said Cynthia Thome, owner of Bear Mountain Sports off Highway 58. On Friday, her shelves were “wiped out,” she said, like those of a grocery store.
She said, “2008, 2016 were both really busy, you know, when (former President Barack) Obama got elected in 2008. There was a big upturn in 2016 when they thought (former presidential candidate) Hillary (Clinton) was going to get elected. Then last year in June, before the (state background) ammo check was going into effect we had another big rush in ammo.”
In previous runs, there were plenty of canned goods and other staples to go around, she said.
“This is a totally different situation,” she said. “Because everybody is in such a panic, not only in people buying guns. … This is an even more trying time.”
Some stores have taken to limiting how much individual customers may buy, others have not.
A spokeswoman for Big 5 Sporting Goods said its managers have discretion on ammo sales but that generally the chain was not rationing and ammo was being sold “on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Second Amendment on Rosedale was limiting how much individual customers could purchase of certain popular calibers of ammunition, General Manager Chris Lajoie said.
He said it was so busy last week that some customers waited in line for a few hours to get into the store. The run on ammo is similar to what has happened in election years past, he said, except this time “you have a lot of first-time buyers.”
“People just want to feel sale and they want to own a firearm. Plus, it’s their right,” he said.
‘LIKE A SEATBELT’
One customer in line at Second Amendment on Friday, Bakersfield resident Mark (he would only give his first name), had never bought or owned a gun before. But he figured the time has come for greater protection for his wife and him now that people are going crazy over simple toilet paper.
“It’s like a seatbelt,” he said of owning a firearm. “You hope you never need it.”
“Frankly, I should’ve had one before. I mean, it’s home protection,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association said by email the rush to buy ammunition is part of a larger pattern.
“Our nation has seen an uptick in firearm and ammunition sales whenever people feel threatened,” wrote Amy Hunter, the NRA’s director of media relations.
“We’re seeing it now,” she continued, “because Americans know that, during times like these, first-responder resources may be limited and their safety is ultimately in their own hands.”
Renzo Navarrete was among the 30 or so people in line outside Second Amendment midafternoon Friday. He said he was buying ammunition for the handgun his father bought a couple of weeks ago “just in case he ever needs to use it.” Apparently his father misplaced the ammunition.
Navarrete said he’s not terribly worried. But he understands if others are, especially at a time when family members are temporarily avoiding visiting each other.
“I think people try to plan ahead,” he said, just in case the situation with the new coronavirus worsens.
John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.