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‘A lot of first-time buyers’: Gun sales surge amid COVID-19 outbreak

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As many continue to deal with the stress that some feel during times of uncertainty, we've found it isn't just cleaning supplies and groceries people have been trying to stock up on. Local firearm stores have been all but emptied out.

The response we got from several gun stores in numerous counties showed how overwhelmed they are with business. Many said they barely had time to take our call and compared the demand to that of toilet paper. But local law enforcement says the community should not be afraid and panicked when it comes to safety, especially not to this degree.

"I don't foresee a lot of gun violence coming from this, I probably do see some profitability for gun stores," said  Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.

Pastor, like many local law enforcement agencies, isn't worried COVID-19 will overall increase violent crime, but it seems many across the state are still fearful. Sheriff Pastor says that's all to be expected in times of crisis.

"Usually ammunition and gun sales go up, that is one characteristic of country. Whether you think it's a good characteristic or bad characteristic, it just is," he said.

We heard from several employees of local gun shops who say it's undeniable that the massive surge is attributed to people's fear during this time. Jason Cazes, owner of Low Price Guns in Bellevue, says three weeks ago, the boom in business hit like a ton of bricks.

"It was overwhelming, and it was unexpected and sudden."

Cazes found himself flooded with new customers with an urgent request.

"Hey I need a hand gun, I need a shot gun. All the sudden they're interested in having something for protection," he said.

Cazes soon found himself in the same position as gun shops all over the state and nation, struggling to keep up with the huge demand.

"We're out of a lot of inventory now, there are a lot of people in the waiting queue," he said.

Local law enforcement is now dealing with a massive amount of firearm applications.

The King County Sheriff's Department received over 400 applications on Friday and 400 additional applications on Monday. The surge in number could reflect what many gun store owners say they've observed with recent customers.

"It's a lot of first time buyers," says Cazes

We heard from many gun owners and sellers today about the recent increase in new gun owners.  Many told us they hope new owners won't forget about safety training during these stressful times.

"It's very uncertain times right now and it gives people a way to protect themselves, and that's something  important for a lot of people right now," says Cazes.

While fear of the unknown is inevitable for some, law enforcement hopes that won't be the case for most. They urge us all to remember they're still here, still responding, and protecting us.

"We're gonna be there for you, we need you to be there for us as well. Lets get through this together," says Sheriff Pastor.

As of 6 p.m. on March 25, per Governor Jay Inslee's order, Washington gun stores will be closed for two weeks.

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