© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Charlotte Area News
See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

As Fears About Coronavirus Grow, Gun Purchases Rise


The coronavirus has certainly affected people’s buying habits. Of course, you probably know that toilet paper and bread are in high demand. So are guns.

Federal background check statistics for March are not available, but gun shop owners across the country are reporting a surge in business. Count Larry Hyatt among them. He owns Hyatt Guns in west Charlotte and says he’s never seen demand so high.

Larry Hyatt: Starting March 13th, Friday the 13th, up until yesterday at closing, it was the busiest the store has ever been. They don't like us to give numbers out, but I would say, you know, in a typical day this time of year versus what we actually sold. I would say the number of firearms sold was approximately eight to nine times more than a typical day. And it would have been more, but there's a physical limit to what you can do.

Lisa Worf: So you actually had to turn people away at the door?

Hyatt: Well, maybe they turn themselves away. They didn't want to wait in line. They just didn't want to wait in a long line.

Worf: How long were the lines?

Hyatt: We had up to 60 people at one time.

Worf: So it was going out the door?

Hyatt: Oh, yes. It was out in the parking lot. And they had to be six feet apart.

Worf: I mean, clearly, this is centered around the coronavirus epidemic. But what do you think is really driving these sales?

Hyatt: Well, several things. No. 1, it's the virus. No. 2, the financial collapse going with it. No. 3 is what's going to happen to the drugstores and the food stores? Is there gonna be enough food? People are wondering if the government can't control drugs and gangs in good times, what are they going to do if things break down?

So we saw sort of a fear element, protect the nest. How do I protect my home and my family? And the biggest change -- I've been here over 50 years myself -- the biggest change I saw were the number of women buying firearms and trying to buy them to protect their families.

Worf: How many women did you see? I mean, what was sort of the percentage?

Hyatt: Normally it's about 10%. Now we saw 30%. And these are urban residents, people who live in the city. They're not gun people. And in fact, a lot of them don't even want a gun or like guns, but they felt they need self protection.

Worf: And that's what they were saying to you, then?

Hyatt: Yes. The next group was senior citizens. And they were worried, too, because the men were (saying) "How can I protect myself and my wife. I can't run. I can't fight." So, more frail, very worried. And plus, I think they felt like they were more likely to be victims of the virus. But how do you protect yourself if our institutions fail? If you call 911 and nobody comes?

Worf: And you are open now because you are deemed an essential business. So what is business looking like at this point for you?

Hyatt: At this point it's much quieter because we're only working by appointment because we don't have as much staff. About one-third of our staff is senior citizens and we decided they need to be home, quarantined. And then we had a few that just didn't feel comfortable. They had sick parents that lived with them, other people that they didn't want to give it to. So our staff is so reduced that we're doing the appointments now.

So the people who purchased a gun are waiting on their background checks. We're calling them once they're approved and they can come in and pick up their firearm. We're doing some repairs as well. Some of our law enforcement's still open, but much reduced starting today.

Worf: That's Larry Hyatt with Hyatt Guns. Thank you, Mr. Hyatt.

Hyatt: Thank you.

Click here for the latest coronavirus news on WFAE’s live blog.

Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.