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Gun Shops In PA Packed Ahead Of Coronavirus Closures

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Elaine Thompson
/
AP

Gun shops across Pennsylvania have been packed this week, with shoppers buying up ammunition and firearms as uncertainty about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic continued and Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the state by midnight on Monday.

At some shops, lines stretched out the door.

“It’s insane right now, I’ve got three lines going,” said Jeff Rodemyer, owner of Bluestone Firearms in York.

“The whole shop is filled up,” said Joe Staudt, owner of Staudt’s Gun Shop in Harrisburg. He estimates he’s ten times busier than normal.

Staudt plans to keep slinging ammo as long as he can. “The governor said midnight. So we’re going to stay open as long as the background check system is working,” he said.

Store owners in South Philadelphia, Holmesburg, and Bucks County also described long lines and a spike in sales. “This is the highest gun sales we’ve seen in a very long time,” said an employee at a store in Southampton, before hanging up to deal with the crowds.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania rose to 76 as of Monday evening, with cases in 14 counties, residents are urged to avoid non-essential travel, maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and others, and to not congregate in large groups.

Public health officials said shutting down businesses was a necessary step to contain the spread.

Yet not all suppliers intend to close. One man who runs a gun shop out of his home in North Versailles and did not want his name printed said, “I’m an essential business. I’m firearms. That’s essential. It’s second amendment rights.”

Keystone Crossroads is a statewide reporting collaborative of WITF, WPSU and WESA, led by WHYY.