BROOKINGS – Several local businesses report that the Brookings area is following a nationwide trend of increased gun sales in the first half of 2020.
Some speculate that the uptick may be due to the pandemic, protests and civil unrest.
March and April were “probably the largest gun-sale months that we had on record at this particular store,” said Tyler “TJ” Johnson, sporting goods manager at Runnings in Brookings. He said that two-thirds of sales have been handguns, with the remaining one-third being long-guns.
“A lot of those individuals seem to be looking for something because there is just a lot of insecurity right now,” he added. “A lot of customers that I’ve been talking to as well, it seems like they’re maybe at a point where they’ve put off purchasing a firearm or owning a firearm for the fact that they’re not very comfortable with that.
“But with everything that’s been going on this whole year, I think they’ve come to the realization that they are entitled to own a gun. With the second amendment, being legally (able to) own one, they want to be able to protect themselves and their family.
“Some might just want to get into the sport of shooting and what better time than now.”
And Johnson said a lot of the first-time purchasers are women.
“Their neighbor that they’re friends with or their sister-in-law or maybe their daughter purchased a firearm and they’re looking to do some shooting together; it can be a family bonding time.”
Johnson said the most popular weapon is 9mm; a close second is the .22 caliber. A couple of factors fitting into the equation of choosing a firearm are the availability and cost of ammunition.
“There’s not a desire to own a firearm when you can’t get much ammo. With a .22, the ammo is fairly cheap and it’s readily available. There’s not a lot of recoil; it’s nice to get broken into when you start shooting,” Johnson said.
Less ammunition was being made available, as some manufacturers shut down for two weeks to two months during the coronavirus pandemic. That led to shortages in larger calibers, such as 9mm, he explained. However, “a lot of the ammo companies are now up and running.”
‘How to load, how to shoot’
After operating by appointment only during the coronavirus shutdown, The Exchange, in downtown Brookings and in business since 1982, is now again open for walk-in customers. Jamie Werre, daughter of owner Steve Torino, said they have seen a “very busy increase in gun sales: everything, with first time gun-owners buying for home defense.”
“There have been people looking for guns,” said Corey Haug, owner of Bargains on Main, a pawn shop in downtown Brookings. “Personally, I haven’t seen a huge increase in (gun sales) but I’ve heard of an interest in it at a lot of bigger gun shops.
“I have a very limited selection of guns. I’m out of handguns right now.”
One weapon that generates a lot of interest at Bargains but is not likely to be purchased is a 7.62 X 54mm Russian-made machine gun.
Haug used to have a not-for-sale sign on it; now he just keeps it so steeply priced that nobody is likely to make a purchase offer.
Mike Stern, owner of Stern Custom Gunsmithing in rural Bruce, said he’s “doing more repairs but not more sales.”
He does some special ordering but he’s more a “point of referral” when it comes to gun sales.
He did note that some of his customers are concerned about “home defense.” One of them talked about “how crazy this world’s gotten.”
Now with a lessening of the lockdowns and a general, albeit slow, opening up of businesses and activities, local gun purchasers are looking for a chance to fire their new guns.
For both new gun owners and experienced shooters alike, the Brookings County Outdoor Adventure Center is again open for business, to both members and the general public after being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Public hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 1 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
“People have asked me if we’re going to hold classes on just basic pistol,” said Dustin Huber, BCOAC director. “(They say), ‘I’ve never shot a gun. I’m actually scared of guns. I want to learn how to load one, how to shoot one, all that kind of stuff.’
“We have had phone calls, and we have had a few people come up to the range that had just purchased a gun.”
For additional information about the Center, call 693-4622 or log onto www.bcoac.org.
Both Walmart and Dunham’s stores in Brookings declined to comment on gun sales in this area and referred The Brookings Register to media representatives in their corporate offices.
Walmart offers no telephone number for media queries, referring callers to an email address. A voicemail left with Dunham’s was not returned.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]