A roll of toilet paper is now worth more than a gallon of gasoline in most parts of the United States. In Australia, after armed guards were hired to secure toilet paper aisles and one-per-customer limits, a newspaper decided to print eight blank pages at the back of their daily paper with handy cut outs for readers to DIY their own. And in the UK, there are toilet paper rations as if there was a world war going on.
The cliché monkey see, monkey do works here. The constant barrage of images of empty paper goods shelves all over the local news and social media is causing people to react. And when conflicting information is presented, humans tend to react to the most extreme option, just in case. It doesn’t help that the government and media have been exercising their own powers of panic over the situation. So when a few people buy up all of the stock at their local grocers, everyone else just needing their usual supply begins panicking when it is unavailable.
Toilet paper isn’t the only product selling out in face of the Chinavirus. Hand sanitizer inventory has been depleted and what is left is being sold on places like eBay at such astronomical prices that it's probably not legal under most states’ anti-price gouging laws.
The recent panic buying is affecting firearm and ammunition sellers as well. Sales in Michigan have skyrocketed since the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus made its way to the U.S. Compared to this time last year, ammo sales are up 566% and increasing every day.
Jacob Long, a representative from Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply, an online retailer of firearm ammunition told American Rifleman, “We are seeing an increase in sales across the board. It’s not product-specific, it’s industry-specific.” He also provided the NRA a comprehensive run down of the cartridges flying off of the proverbial shelves. “Sales of .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO are up 2,036%, .45 ACP has risen 195% and the 9 mm increase came in at 110%.”
Only one part of the reason for self-made ammunition shortages is the insanity surrounding the new foreign illness. Seeing household basics like bleach and toilet paper facing shortages, normally some of the cheapest products in a store, will cause even relatively rational people to believe that there is worse coming, even if they don’t personally buy into the coronavirus lunacy. When everyone in the vicinity is acting crazy, the right to bear arms becomes that much more important.
That lunacy includes edgy millennials nicknaming the virus the “Boomer Remover” implying a desensitized outlook on the fact that this coronavirus is most deadly to the aging population. Some are even optimistic that the virus will kill off the bulk of Joe Biden voters leaving a hope that “this is how Bernie can still win” - going so far as to call it Divine Intervention.
COVID-19 is far from the only event fueling the current mass run on ammo. The stock market volatility that the U.S. experienced this week, first dropping by so much upon Monday’s opening that the stock market was temporarily halted before recovering by almost 2000 pts before the end of day on Friday, is enough to cause panic purchases of bullets, even without a pandemic at our door. If the markets don’t like instability, gun owners really don’t like instability. Both sell offs and bullet buys are also testimonials of how little faith markets and citizens have in the governments' ability to handle this crisis efficiently.
Adding to that is this is the time of year when sales usually see a moderate increase due to a significant number of customers getting a tax refund as well as a year in which a U.S. Presidential election is being held.
Montana is the latest area seeing their own shortages of ammunition. A Missoula gun seller told NBC that despite getting deliveries everyday of new ammo inventory, buyers’ irrational fears of shortages is deliberately causing the shortage, just like toilet paper.
“It’s a little bit like the toilet paper shortage you know there really wasn’t a toilet paper shortage until people thought there was and people went out and bought a bunch," said Brucker. "We saw something with 22 ammunition for a couple of years where people were just buying way more than they could ever use, so yeah we might get to the point where we see a true shortage, because people are just buying so much."
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