Judging from the business at gun stores, many customers believe guns and ammunition are essential for a disaster.
David Prince, owner of Eagle Gun Range in Lewisville and Farmers Branch, said he has seen a 500% increase in business, much of it from new customers who’ve never owned a firearm before.
“They’re coming in here with fear on their faces. They are just petrified that they’re not going to be able to protect their families in a catastrophe,” Prince said.
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Business was heaviest on Saturday when customers feared that Dallas County gun stores would close under the initial stay at home order that was to take effect Monday night at midnight.
At Ray’s Sporting Goods in Dallas, the line of customers stretched around the building, with the number of people inside limited under social distancing rules.
“I have a daughter I want to keep her safe. I want to protect my family at home in case something happens. If there’s a quarantine, people have a shortage of supplies, people might try to break in,” Ray’s customer Luis Azuna told NBC 5 on Saturday.
An amended Dallas County order on Tuesday, March 24, said “Firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security” are included under the section describing “Essential Retail.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been asked by a Lubbock State Representative to clarify gun stores as an essential business statewide. Paxton's office issued his legal opinion Friday morning, saying municipal and county authorities may not use emergency powers to regulate or restrict the sale of firearms.
“State law provides several emergency powers to local governments to control movement within their region during a disaster, which serves our communities well during public health events like the one we’re fighting now. However, local regulation of the sale, possession, and ownership of firearms is specifically prohibited under Texas law,” said Paxton. “Under our laws, every Texan retains their right to purchase and possess firearms.”
The shooting range portions of Price’s businesses are closed but the stores are open.
“We'd like to open up the range to give them knowledge and that would be how to use it properly,” Prince said.
Customer Jarid Garafi was pleased to find a silencer part he needed at Prince’s Farmers Branch store Thursday.
“There's a lot of fear. That is human I think. I learned this in the Air Force many years ago, survival of the fittest, correct?”
Garafi said talk of releasing lower-level offenders from the Dallas County Jail since coronavirus has been confirmed there, fuels concern about lawlessness.
“It's a valid fear there. I remain on 24/7. I carry a firearm on me,” Garafi said.
Other businesses may be closed, but gun stores are thriving during this coronavirus pandemic.