Update from author: I’ve gotten many (justifiably) angry comments about this article. While I won’t disclose my source or the name of the store, I will say it was not a gun store but rather a retail chain store that also sells arms/ammo. I wrote this with the intent of shining the light on a very real problem. If you think this type of practice might be happening in a store near you, I highly suggest you talk to the manager and find out for yourself what “process” is in place regarding their arms/ammo sales staff. A-MM
Every day, we’re hearing stories about how the DHS is “buying up all our ammo”. While there may be some validity in this, I spoke to an ammo/firearms salesperson to find out what industry retailers are being told.
What I learned about the ammo shortage wasn’t as stunning as the way he described the process in which salespeople decide whether someone should (or shouldn’t) be allowed to purchase a firearm.
Understandably, the salesperson has asked to remain anonymous. He has worked for the same retail store for almost 2 years and was recently promoted to a managerial position. So for this article, I am simply calling him “Frank”.
A-M: One of the main issues I hear about on an almost daily basis is the shortage of ammunition. There are dozens of conspiracy-type theories, but the main one being circulated is that instead of going after our firearms, the DHS trying to take away our ability to load them. What are you hearing?
Frank: I’ve heard every conspiracy theory out there and have literally been yelled at and lectured by angry customers. From everything I know about this industry, it’s not a matter of the government buying all the ammo but it’s more about panicked customers who believe the stories and are stockpiling. For almost a year I’ve seen the same customers come into the store on an almost daily basis buying up everything we get in stock. For months as soon as we get a shipment people are lined up outside the door before we open and we sell out of everything within the first few minutes. So from what I’ve personally been seeing for almost two years and from what our ammo dealers are telling us, this is simply a matter of supply and demand. Yes, the government is probably buying a lot of ammo, but so is the American public.
A-M: Sort of like after an earthquake, when all the generators sell out?
Frank: Exactly. Or like after any natural disaster when everyone stocks up on supplies for months after. Sooner or later, the panic goes away and things get back to normal. Unfortunately because there’s still a lot of panic out there, I don’t see us getting back to normal anytime in the near future.
A-M: John Lott personally told me basically the same thing—that it’s merely a matter of ammo dealers running out of ammo, and not to worry because they’ll just keep making it. But he also said instead of panicking about ammo, we should be watching our individual states very closely to make sure they don’t sneak in bills and laws to diminish our 2nd amendment rights. Speaking of, here in crazy California what’s going on with gun sales?
Frank: Now that’s a very interesting subject. You’ll probably be shocked to know that it’s up to all of us salespeople to decide who we personally think should and shouldn’t own a gun. We’re trained to look for signs, like fidgeting, nervousness, or even too much confidence. If we see any of those signs, we’ll usually deny them immediately.
A-M: You mean that’s all you have to do, just by looking at someone you can say ‘no, I’m not letting you buy a gun’?
Frank: Yep. And if a couple comes in and the woman does most of the talking, we’ll probably say no right away.
Frank: Because almost every time, we’ll see the guy whispering, telling her which type of firearm he wants and exactly what to say. That usually means he’s a felon or isn’t able to get it himself and is instructing her what to do. And forget it if you’re a woman and tell us you want to have a gun for ‘home protection’.
A-M: You’re kidding—why else would a non-hunting woman want a gun?
Frank: We’re told that if a woman claims to want a gun for home protection, she usually has intent to kill someone if they break into her home. With someone like you, you’d probably be denied right away.
A-M: (staring blankly)
Frank: We’re instructed that unlike a man, a woman might panic and unload on an intruder instead of just injuring him until help comes. White middle-aged women are usually the ones who fit that type of profile.
A-M: Wow, so some 20-something can simply look at me, profile me, and determine I’m not getting a firearm because I might kill someone who’s trying to kill me instead of hitting him in the leg?
Frank: Yep, that’s about it. Of course if a confident man comes in and says he wants to buy a gun so he can just ‘shoot stuff’ we usually let him purchase. And we get tons of kids who’ve just turned 18 who come in to buy their first shotgun, which we rarely turn down.
A-M: So if you’re a white woman like me who wants a firearm for home security, are there some type of ‘code words’ we can use in order to buy one?
Frank: The best thing to do in our store is say you want it for target practice or hunting. Of course we don’t sell handguns in our store anymore…
Frank: After Sandy Hook our store stopped carrying them. Remember, we are in California…Oh–and we’re also not allowed to sell ammo and a firearm at the same time.
Frank: Because they don’t want anyone to have the opportunity to load in the store. Of course, all they have to do is purchase one, put it in their car, and come right back to buy the other—so it’s not really that affective.
A-M: What type of training do employees who sell guns and ammo go through at your store?
Frank: Just the normal store training, nothing major. You have to be 21 to sell firearms, but I was only 19 when I started and I was able to do everything except the actual transaction. They ask us to go to gun shows and pay us if we do, but most of us don’t do that. The problem is that a lot of our employees are very anti-gun, and believe there should be strict background checks so they turn almost everyone down. It’s different in each store location, but we’re in a very liberal area so it’s much harder to find 2nd-loving employees.
A-M: So bottom line—at least here in California—what would you suggest to people who want to buy a firearm for home protection?
Frank: I’d say go to a gun show, or at least a retail store in a more conservative part of town. Because if you come to our store, there’s a good chance you’re just wasting your time.