Two sisters, each over 60 years old, walked into Elite Warrior Firearms in Ormond Beach recently, and each bought an AR-15 with several magazines of ammunition.
“They’re scared,” said Todd Glaczenski, owner of the gun shop. “They were buying them for protection.”
Glaczenski, who opened his shop at 1360 N. U.S. 1, Suite 104, in February, just before the pandemic took hold in the United States, said interest in guns is so high, in fact, that he is having a difficult time keeping inventory in stock. More than half are first-time gun buyers.
About 14 miles north, at Larry’s Guns and Ammo in Bunnell, Manager Kirk Chong tells a similar story. He said he was teaching about 30 people per month in concealed-carry classes last summer; this summer, he’s been teaching more than 500 people per month.
“Everybody says the same things,” Chong said. “We hear it every day: ‘I’m a new gun buyer.’ I must have heard, ‘This world’s getting crazy,’ about 10 million times a day. They want to get their own gun to protect themselves.”
For the most part, Chong said he’s been out of inventory also. He bought 30,000 rounds of 9mm ammunition recently, assuming it would last 90 days. It was gone in 10 days.
“We are currently experiencing unprecedented volume,” a recorded voice says when you call the phone number to another gun shop, Florida Gun Exchange, at 1050 S. Nova Road, in Ormond Beach.
Why are so many people buying guns?
Lockdowns and looting
Both Elite and Larry’s had similarly big sales numbers when the government began talking about locking down society in March, and then again when they saw looting and riots during police brutality protests in June.
“People were concerned that other people would get stupid and try to rob and loot,” Chong said. “We were sold out; there was such a rush on it. … We get calls 10 times a day from people looking for 9 mm, double-ought buck. But there’s just nothing out there at the moment.”
Chong called it “panic buying.”
“When the pandemic started, people were coming in, thinking, ‘We should get a handgun,’” Glaczenski said. “But the moment you saw those riots — I had three older guys from Palm Coast standing at my door. By noontime, every AR-15 was gone. I sold 16.”
Glaczenski added: “I don’t want to be Mr. Extremist Crazy Guy here, but you’ve watched it take place in major cities — people being assaulted, people’s livelihoods being destroyed, looting, the votes to defund police — it scares people. The biggest reason why these first-time gun buyers are buying guns is because they’re scared and they want to be able to protect themselves.”
Second Amendment threats
When he goes into local gun shops, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said during Aug. 21’s “Free For All Friday on WNZF, “it looks like the supermarket before a hurricane. They have very few guns left. … You see this at every presidential election because of threats made by some political parties against the Second Amendment.”
Glaczenski agrees. “Whereas there used to be a happy medium with firearms, now all the talk you’re hearing from one political party is they’re going to take away our guns,” he said. “You’re hearing a lot of political rhetoric.”
The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Putting guns in the hands of the people is essential to our security, Glaczenski believes.
Meanwhile, a 2019 Gallup poll showed that 64% of those surveyed preferred stricter federal gun laws. By comparison, in 2009, the same poll showed that 44% wanted stricter gun laws.
Protection and sport
Glaczenski has heard the arguments against high-end guns before: Why would anyone need an AR-15?
“Why do you need a car that exceeds the speed limit?” he said.
In reality, the AR-15 is lighter than a hunting rifle and is a good choice for protecting your home, he said.
“I don’t think anyone buys any of these weapons in hopes that they have to use them for anything other than enjoyment, but it gives them peace of mind,” he said.
Many of Glaczenski’s customers who buy guns for protection end up falling in love with the sport of shooting.
“I certainly enjoy shooting them,” he said. “It’s fun. I think it’s jewelry for guys, the pride of owning rare weapons, high-end guns.”
Despite the camouflaged gun and the deer on the wall at Larry’s in Bunnell, Chong said he doesn’t sell guns to many hunters — only for those who shoot for sport and who want guns for self protection. Many are retirees from northern states that have more restrictive gun rules, he said.
Bunnell resident Joe Colmone stopped into Larry’s on Aug. 28 as a customer. He said he owns multiple guns and has given advice to many of his friends who have been looking into buying their first.
“They want to protect themselves,” he said. “The news puts the fear in people.”
Brian McMillan and his wife, Hailey, bought the Observer in 2023. Before taking on his role as publisher, Brian was the editor from 2010 to 2022, winning numerous awards for his column writing, photography and journalism, from the Florida Press Association.