By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Health and safety concerns appear to be contributing to a surge in gun sales.

Background checks in Minnesota spiked in March as COVID-19 hit the United States, with more than 96,000 filed — the most for any month in 20 years.

Kory Krause, the owner of Frontiersman Sports in St. Louis Park, says demand again grew following George Floyd’s death last month, and it is still climbing.

“People are really scared coming in here,” Krause said. “We had a three, four hour wait just to get up to the counter during the height of … the rioting.”

Chris Hardin was in the store Wednesday picking up a shotgun he bought. He already owns a handgun, but the recent unrest near his home in Minneapolis got him thinking about his family.

“A little scary,” Hardin said. “You just have to protect yourself, you know. Be prepared.”

Krause says his inventory’s at about one-third its normal levels. In addition to surging demand, distributors have slowed supply during the pandemic.

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Andover gun collector Jason Bowser says he has also come across many bare store shelves.

“Yeah, gun stores are pretty empty, especially like ammo is sold out everywhere,” Bowser said.

Krause says the vast majority of customers have been first-time buyers, so he and his staff are spending extra time on education.

They are also turning down more people than usual. Krause says it’s a moral responsibility to do so when the sale just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes he and his employees may feel the gun is being purchased for somebody else, or they feel the buyer has a mental health issue.

But those cases are dwarfed by the sales. The line for gun permits in Hennepin County went down and around the hall earlier this week.

“The only other thing that comes to memory was there was a big panic after the Sandy Hook tragedy back in late 2012,” Krause said.

If he manages to keep enough product on hand, Krause says it could be a record year for his business.

Besides firearms, he also recommends chemical sprays and stun guns for self-defense.

David Schuman

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