WAITE PARK – Gun sellers across the country are reporting major surges in firearm and ammunition sales as the coronavirus spreads.

The Guns and Gear Store in Waite Park is no exception.

“It’s a definite uptick, mostly different home defense shotguns,” said store employee Robert Scepaniak II. “It’s people looking to protect their homes and their families. It’s not people going out to cause harm to other people.”

The store, which opened in 2009, began to see a sharp increase in outbreak-related sales on Sunday.

“When someone comes in, we like to ask what they’re planning to use the firearm for and what their previous experiences (with firearms) have been,” Scepaniak explained. “This last week, we’ve seen a large amount of people who aren’t as familiar with firearms as those who are generally in our store.”

Federal law mandates anyone purchasing a gun from a licensed firearms seller in the United States to pass a criminal background check, which is routed to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. All buyers, particularly new buyers, are briefed on safety issues, Scepaniak says.

“Whenever we sell a firearm, it comes with a gun lock,” he said. “We make sure people know how to properly operate and safely store it when it isn't in use.”

Guns aren't the only items selling rapidly; Scepaniak doesn’t have hard numbers but says ammunition sales have peaked as well.

“Right now, we’re seeing literal pallets of ammunition going out the door daily,” said Scepaniak. “It’s much, much more ammo than we would see sold under normal circumstances.”

Scepaniak says the trend of strong firearm sales involving novice buyers is something they expected to see during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re glad to help them,” Scepaniak said. “It’s very interesting though – there are certain things that change peoples’ opinions, and this uncertainty surrounding the virus is one of them.”