The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of supply issues involving certain items like Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer and previously, toilet paper. But one of the biggest shortages right now is guns.
"We have a historic demand in guns right now, something the gun industry has never really seen before,” Aaron Cortez of The Gun Range San Diego told NBC 7.
Inside the Kearny Mesa-based gun shop, shelves normally filled with ammunition are empty. The line outside for target practice starts forming well before the doors open and the only firearms available for purchase are designed for hunting or collecting.
"Anything that someone would intuitively go towards for self-defense purpose, semi-automatics, pump-action shotguns, have become the most sought-after guns in the entire country, so they're next to impossible to find,” Cortez said.
Cortez said the buying frenzy started in March with the uncertainty of the pandemic. In May, a second wave of interest was brought on by concerns about civil unrest.
"Most of the people we've been dealing with the past few months are people who've never owned a gun before,” Cortez said.
According to data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department approved 294 concealed weapon permits in March. Compare that to 114 approvals last year, 57 the year before, and just 18 in 2017, 2020 has seen a huge increase in firearm sales.
While gun sales often spike during political turnover, this shortage is different. Normally, manufacturers ramp up supply but that’s not what’s happening right now.
"Right now they can't because depending on what state they're in or what country they're in, they have different manufacturing restrictions, or they can't even get the materials they need to manufacture these guns,” Cortez said. “So it's a simultaneous huge drop in supply and a huge surge in demand."
The Truman Project San Diego, which advocates for stricter gun laws, said having more firearms in households could be dangerous.
“The math is simple -- more guns equals more chance of gun violence,” said Shawn Van Diver of the Truman Project. “There is a national or community security reason for a surge in gun prices".
There are concerns that new gun owners won't take safety seriously, but Cortez said he hasn't seen this first hand.
The run range recently ramped up beginner training courses and instructors are often booked two months out.