Suburban gun shops see increase in gun, ammunition sales

  • Zulma Perez of Fox Valley Shooting Range, from right, assists Joe Cruz of Elgin and Richard Abe of Streamwood as they look at an AR-15 Saturday at the Elgin gun shop. The store has seen an increase in business amid growing fears related to the coronavirus.

      Zulma Perez of Fox Valley Shooting Range, from right, assists Joe Cruz of Elgin and Richard Abe of Streamwood as they look at an AR-15 Saturday at the Elgin gun shop. The store has seen an increase in business amid growing fears related to the coronavirus. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/21/2020 7:35 PM

Like grocery store shelves without toilet paper and disinfecting wipes, so too are suburban gun store owners finding it difficult to keep their shops stocked with firearms and ammunition amid a growing demand due to the coronavirus.

Business has been brisk all week at Fox Valley Shooting Range in Elgin, and especially on Saturday, when customers were making prospective purchases before the shop closed for a deep-cleaning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Owner Mark Glavin said he wants to make sure the entire facility is scrubbed down, but plans to reopen the retail portion of the business by midweek.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home executive order issued Friday does include several exemptions for "essential businesses," including firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers "for purposes of safety and security."

Glavin plans to keep his shooting range closed at least through April 7, believing it wouldn't pass legal muster as an essential business in Pritzker's order.

Mirroring a nationwide trend, Glavin said gun and ammunition sales at his store started ticking up a week-and-a-half ago with more and more about coronavirus in the news.

"I don't know. It appears to be fear of the unknown," said Glavin, who opened the shop and range in 2018. "I'm 52 and I've never been ordered to stay at home unless for essential business. I think people just don't know."

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Among those browsing the store's limited selection on Saturday afternoon were friends Richard Abe of Streamwood and Joe Cruz of Elgin.

"We're at a time in history, and there's no better time than now to arm yourself to be able to defend yourself," said Abe, who added he's concerned a bit about supply shortages.

Glavin said the global supply of handgun ammunition has been especially squeezed, since some components are made in Italy -- a country hard-hit by the pandemic. As manufacturers have raised prices, so have distributors and shops.

A 50-round box of 9 mm ammunition -- the cheapest thing Fox Valley Shooting Range sells -- goes for $13.99, when it normally would be $9.99, Glavin said.

Because of the pent-up demand, the store, like others, has put limits on how much people can buy.

"Nine mm is the most common handgun ammunition in America," he said. "It's been flying out of here as fast as we can get it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In a bulletin to members Thursday, Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson wrote that Illinois State Police and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System are overwhelmed.

On Monday, the federal system experienced a 300% increase over normal volume, Pearson said.

First-time gun buyers must initially apply for a Firearm Owners Identification card, but those approvals have also slowed, from one month to six months in some cases, Glavin said.

• Daily Herald photographer Brian Hill contributed to this report.

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