In the age of Amazon and the ‘next day’ culture we’ve all become accustomed to, it seems really strange to be told “it could be weeks or months” to get what you ordered, or maybe even longer!
In fact you probably will ask again just to make sure you heard it right. Unfortunately you did. Sure, there are unprincipled merchants who will tell you what ever they need to in order to get the sale but those of us who hope to build a relation over time with our customers aren’t going to stoop to such low practices.
The firearms business is typically pretty stable in terms of supply and demand however it’s not unheard of for it to get out of balance. When it happens it’s usually as a result of some new policies around gun control, and/or it could be as a result of an election which brings about a new and unpredictable administration.
Other times it’s right after a highly publicized and tragic shooting where seemingly innocent people are caught up in ‘gun violence’. Each of these situations can bring about some instability, or imbalance between supply and demand but they are typically short in duration and things soon normalize. The news cycle moves on, or the politician is caught up in a new scandal, or the manufacturers just step up production. This time it’s different.
As a FFL dealer we have a different perspective of this situation than the consumer and what I’d like to share with you is what I have seen that seems to have gotten us to the point of saying “it could be weeks, months.. maybe longer”.
Back in October, 2019 we started to hear more and more about the ‘upcoming election’ and throughout the primaries we heard a lot from people like “Beto” talk about gun confiscation. We heard clips of Joe Biden saying “Bingo! You’re damn right I’m coming for your guns”.
The list of comments and promises about gun restrictions goes on and on and I’m sure you’ve heard them and the natural reaction is for supporters of the 2nd Amendment to rightly start to worry. So the heart rates go up and a few more guns are bought by those who typically own and buy guns. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as they say.
In February of 2020 we began to hear about another situation, COVID 19 AKA the China Flu. While seemingly unrelated to firearms, the mainstream news and media talked about it non-stop. The endless coverage is a combination of facts, conjecture, projection, and hype that’s great for getting viewers to tune in, but a byproduct of this is fear. Some rational, some irrational and all of it fogged by opportunists. The end result, people start to worry about food shortages and the possibility that will lead to hungry roving gangs breaking into homes to get their next meal and/or toilet paper.
So the heart rate goes up again and this time, those less inclined to get a gun also decide “it’s time to get a gun” while the rest of us consider getting another gun. This continues for the next few months as does the need for ammunition.
So at this point I’m explaining how the demand is starting to grow, and grow fast. Gun dealers have inventory and we start to sell it and in the background they place restocking orders with manufacturers and distributors. No problem yet as the business is good and people are getting protection they sought.
Then the COVID related workplace shutdowns happen and they last for a while. The manufacturers aren’t able to produce and the supplies at the dealers and the distributors start to dwindle and prices start to soar. Selection and availability of guns and ammo decreases. The consumers heart rate rises yet again and so they start to buy whatever they can get their hands on “just to have something JUST IN CASE” and of course with that comes the purchase of ammunition. This only adds to the huge imbalance between supply and demand. Who would have imagined that it was going to get worse?
As if all of that wasn’t enough we start to see mob actions. This isn’t the same as peaceful protest or lawfully assembling to air grievances with one’s government. Specifically criminal riots in the streets for a variety of reasons, few of them legitimate where property is stolen and destroyed and people are injured and killed. The situation goes from pretty damn bad, to unimaginable and so those who would “never” consider buying a gun, are now pretty happy to have 2nd amendment rights available to them. The feeling is “I must have something to protect my family, my home and my life”. They join the millions of others in buying and dealers all over the country answer endless calls that start with the person on the other end of the phone saying “I never thought I’d have to do this, but I’d like to buy a gun. Can you help me?”. Their hearts are racing as they have this conversation and rightly so.
I’m guessing by this point you’re starting to understand the situation. Manufacturers had closed, while the distributors and dealers stock was depleted to almost zero and the unprecedented demand from a larger percentage of the population grows larger than ever before. As a dealer we have little choice but to now say “we have very little in stock and I really can’t tell you when we’ll be getting more”.
The shorter tactical home defense shotguns went first, in part because that’s what people were recommended to get for home protection. They are easier to use in space limited surroundings.
Next the slightly longer tactical shotguns sold out. These have easy options for mounting lights and sights.
Now people are settling for the traditional shotguns and any rifle they can get their hands on. Currently the options are far and few between with the prices so high that it’s almost unimaginable because that’s how supply and demand works.
It’s getting closer to almost a year later and we’re still in a bad situation. Yes it’s true that some manufacturers have reopened but they have a reduced staff and production because of COVID restrictions. They can’t produce at the volumes they normally would and now, they too are having trouble getting in the raw materials to mill and manufacturer the parts and/or construct the ammunition.
This doesn’t seem to be easing up any time soon either. Recent announcements of COVID vaccines are great but it will still take some time to get the masses inoculated, to restart the supply chains, to get the staff back to work or to hire and train new employees to do the manufacturing and time to replenish the dozens of distributors and thousands of dealers. When production does ramp back up it will be facing a large mountain of backorders already in the systems and waiting to be filled prior to new business demands being satisfied.
We’ve got a long way to go before we can serve our customers like we used to with good selection, prompt delivery and reasonable pricing. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to predict that new and old 2nd amendment supporters should prepare themselves for even more obstacles such as ‘sensible gun control, gun buy-backs and restrictions’ which are likely to hit us like angry waves breaking on the beach during a storm.
I’ll close this post by saying that none of us are happy that we don’t have inventory and saying “sorry, it could be weeks or months” is just as painful for us to say as it is for our customers to hear. That’s the reality right now. If you think this is tough, just think about how ‘tough’ it will be if we lose our 2nd Amendment rights.
To those of you thinking “that won’t happen” then let me just say this: Who would have thought the government could mandate that we stay in our homes, or stay out of work, or mandate that we wear a mask, or can’t gather with our family? All of that and more is happening right now! Our rights are being trampled in the name of the ‘greater good’. How long before they remove the right for you to protect yourself for ‘the greater good”?