Minneapolis, St. Paul face limited supply of guns, ammunition amid crises

Experts attribute gun, ammunition shortage to coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest

Minneapolis and St. Paul are seeing a shortage of guns and ammunition, an occurrence that experts attribute to anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest and an increasingly fraught presidential race.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there were about 21,900 background checks for gun purchases in Minnesota last August. But this year, during that same time period, there were nearly 35,000 – a 59% increase from 2019.

Gun owners have traced the surge in gun and ammunition sales to March, when the COVID-19 outbreak caused Americans to start panic buying and led to a shortage of typical household supplies, like toilet paper. It also exacerbated fears of potential home invasions.

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Through the end of March, gun permit applications in Minneapolis increased by 35%. In St. Paul, the average number of applications per day surged from five to 30.

But the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in custody of a White Minneapolis police officer in May, and the subsequent protests have accelerated purchases of guns.

In the days following Floyd's death, rioters tore through Minneapolis and St. Paul, causing millions of dollars in damage to more than 1,500 locations. Vandals smashed doors and windows; ransacked goods from pharmacies, groceries and liquor stores; covered hundreds of boarded-up businesses with graffiti; and set fire to nearly 150 buildings.

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“Manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand anymore,” Dave Bean, owner of Get Guns Now, told the Star Tribune. "The industry’s never been hit this hard before.”

Gun shop owners also pointed to the growing defund the police movement as a cause for the limited gun supply.

“I’ve seen a lot more single moms that are scared and need something to protect them,” Dave Amon, an agent at Gunstop of Minnetonka, told the Tribune. “They’re scared when people talk about defunding the police.”

It's not unusual for gun sales to spike during a crisis, and it's not unique to Minneapolis and St. Paul. Earlier in the year, after Italy reported a major COVID-19 outbreak, Ammo.com said sales jumped 68%, with sales surging in North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report