Gun Sales Rise on COVID-19 Concern of Shortages, Social Unrest — Sales of guns and ammo are rising in Canada on concern the COVID-19 coronavirus will lead to supply shortages or even social unrest.

Stores are shutting their doors to stop contagion, while ramping up online and phone service amid a buying surge from the 2.2 million men and women with a federal firearm licence.

‘Very High Order Volume’

“Concerns over COVID-19 are causing very high order volume, resulting in slower fill times,” Bullseye London said today on Instagram from its store in London, Ontario.

Update March 18: Bullseye said it’s now processing an “unprecedented volume of orders.”

‘Extremely Overloaded’

“Phones will be answered when we can but please understand that we are extremely overloaded at the store and may not be able to come to the phone for you,” Al Flaherty’s Outdoor Store, one of Canada’s largest independent firearm retailers, said in a special COVID-19 message on its website.

The Toronto-based shop said it’s allowing a maximum of five customers in the store at any time.

Canadian Gun Culture

Gun ownership is at the heart of Canadian culture, heritage and tradition.

  • Millions of people have firearms for protection, hunting, recreation, competition, predator control, collecting, education, and other applications.
  • The law requires you to have a federal firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) authorized by the police to buy, sell or own any gun.

Supply Risk

People are stocking up for hunting and sport shooting in case supplies get disrupted or depleted.

“We’re selling a lot of ammo because people are thinking, ‘It’s trap and skeet season coming. If I don’t buy my two or three cases now, I won’t be able to shoot,’” J.R. Cox, who owns The Shooting Edge in Calgary and Target Sports Canada north of Toronto, told today by telephone.

It’s the same for shooters of 9 mm and any other calibre, he said.

‘Dramatically Increased Sales’

Update March 18: “Many retailers are seeing dramatically increased sales of firearms and ammunition, it’s important to assure customers there are currently no issues with the supply chain,” the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, the main industry group, said on its COVID-19 page.

Rifles, Shotguns, Handguns

PAL holders buy roughly 3,000 firearms on an average day.

The health crisis is fueling new orders.

“In Alberta, we’re selling a ton of handguns,” said Cox. “Ontario is still a lot of ‘Non-restricted’” rifles and shotguns.

Social Risk

Licence holders are also buying their first firearm in case the hysteria and panic over the spreading pandemic lead to food shortages or turn violent.

Update March 28: Hunters can use their gear to provide food in some regions, and families want to protect themselves at home.

On top of the health emergency are an economic slowdown, financial-market meltdown, mass layoffs, food shortages, travel restrictions, and criticism of the government’s response to the virus threat.

Mounting infection, frustration and desperation could increase the risk of social upheaval.

‘Explosion’ in Sales

Grocery shoppers are already jostling each other to get hand cleaner, toilet paper, bottled water and canned food.

“We’re seeing an explosion of ammunition and gun sales over the weekend and even more so today,” Wes Winkel, the owner of Ellwood Epps Sporting Goods in Orillia, Ontario, told the Toronto Star yesterday. It’s a typical reaction in “these kind of uncertain times.”

Online Open, Showroom Closed

Canada’s 1,500 gun shops employ almost 50,000 people.

Here are some that are closed to walk-in clients and are doing business online or by phone:

Most still allow in-person pickup.

Cox said his stores are requiring shoppers to wash their hands before entering.

Get Armed

The COVID-19 risk is also driving non-shooters to want to get armed.

“I have had more people inquire about how to obtain a firearm license in the past few days than I have in the past five years,” Ryan Simper, who handles sales/marketing for Select Shooting Supplies in Cambridge, Ontario, said yesterday from his personal Twitter account. “If all that’s driving you to obtain a firearm is a crisis … we might need to have a longer talk.”

‘Most Entertaining’

Buying any gun requires first getting a PAL.

  • Applying takes months for safety courses, paperwork and police permissions, and often costs hundreds of dollars.
  • Even with a PAL, the police won’t allow you to carry a loaded gun for safety and survival.

“What I think is the most entertaining part of this whole situation: all these anti-gun people who have been preaching how easy it is to get a gun are discovering how hard it is to get a gun,” said Cox.

Humour Vs. Fear

Select Shooting is also turning to humour amid the fears over health, safety and Armageddon.

“This market might force us to expand our product line,” Select Shooting tweeted March 9 with a laughing emoji and a photo of water and toilet paper on the same shelf as AR-15 ammunition.


  • March 18: Adds new comments by CSAAA and Bullseye London.
  • March 26: Adds that hunters can provide food.
  • March 28: Adds concern for home defence.