Andrea Jones scans DVDs from the overnight return box at Nancy’s Video in Irasburg on June 20, 2019. The store shares space with a gun shop, Green Mountain Sporting Goods. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

In the past five days, Green Mountain Sporting Goods has sold more ammunition than it normally moves in a month.

That’s according to David White, who works in the Irasburg gun shop that doubles as a video rental store.

“We’re starting to limit certain amounts of ammo per caliber per customer,”  White said Tuesday, “just so everybody will have a chance to be able to pick up ammo.”

The Northeast Kingdom outlet is one of many that’s seen a sharp uptick in sales since the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic has seized the nation in recent weeks. Shoppers have been buying out stocks of supplies as concerns have risen over the spread of the virus — notably toilet paper

Firearm-related goods have been no exception.

Customers have been “talking about how everything is going short,” said White, describing the “super influx” the store has seen. “They’re in the panic of everything going on in the country right now.” On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.

Researchers have noted a nationwide trend of gun sales spiking in the wake of mass shootings — partly out of concern that tighter restrictions are coming — and instability in general pushes people toward stockpiling. Federal data shows the number of firearm background checks in Vermont for this January and February has increased by several hundred each compared to the same months in 2019.

As Gov. Phil Scott was preparing to sign new gun control regulations into law in 2018, Henry Parro saw that trend play out in his Waterbury Store, Parro’s Gun Shop and Police Supplies.

And the same is happening now, he said Tuesday. 

“Well, uh, it’s crazy,” he said, almost incredulous. “It’s been extremely busy; it’s been almost like Black Friday all over.”

Parro, who spoke to Seven Days on Monday, said the store has seen nonstop traffic since the middle of last week and that it’s been rising along the way. “We don’t get time to eat lunch anymore,” he said.

The customers are coming from further away than usual, he said, and many of them — new to firearms — are driven by fear.

“People fear getting isolated and not having means to protect themselves or their families if people were to come to take their supplies,” Parro said.

Shoppers in his store are buying 9mm rounds, a common ammunition for handguns, and 12-gauge shotguns are popular, too, he said.

How’s the rush impacted his stock?

“Well, being one of the largest gun shops in Vermont, I have pretty good supply,” Parro said. “It’s starting to show wear and tear, but we’re still stocked.”

The picture is a bit different for White at Green Mountain Sporting Goods.

Sales boosts there have mostly centered around ammo —  9mm, .45- and .223-caliber — and not guns, he said. 

“But as of now it’s getting hard to restock,” White said. “Whole country’s in the same boat.”

And the surge isn’t necessarily welcome. 

“No matter what, I’d rather see a nice even keel that you can plan for,” Parro said. “Huge spikes create huge valleys.” 

He expects a quiet summer at the rate sales have been going.

White wants people not to panic, and he said the store plans to stay open. 

“We’re going to be here to serve the community for whatever their needs are,” he said. “We’re not going to fear it.”

Justin Trombly covers the Northeast Kingdom for VTDigger. Before coming to Vermont, he handled breaking news, wrote features and worked on investigations at the Tampa Bay Times, the largest newspaper in...

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