COVID-19 triggers run on guns, officials stress gun safety


HONOLULU(KHON2)–First it was toilet paper and hand sanitizer, then face masks, now gun sales have shot through the roof. Officials are urging new gun owners to practice proper gun safety.

The run on guns is real according to Timothy Tenney, owner of 808 Gun Club.

“Gun sales have increased probably I’ll say maybe 80 to 90 percent,” Tenney said.

KHON: “What are people primarily coming in to purchase?”

“Anything that they can.”

And the people buying guns may surprise you.

“I had a cosmetic surgeon come in and buy a shotgun. And I thought, wow! What is a surgeon doing buying a shogun? He said, ‘Because I’m scared. I’m afraid for my family when I’m at work, even when I’m at home. These are uncertain times and I want to be able to make sure they’re safe and I can protect them.'”

Tenney said new guns and ammunition arrive almost daily and are flying off the shelves.

He said it’s not only happening in Hawaii.

“Our distributors across the mainland, everybody’s empty. Their warehouses (are empty) so as they get (new firearms) they allocate to dealers.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he is aware that firearm and ammunition sales are up around the island.

“I think it reflects the concern of our community over COVID-19. People get scared and so they want to protect themselves and their loved ones and their families.”

Talk of releasing prisoners may have also contributed to gun sales according to Caldwell.

“There’s a reason for (the release of prisoners) in terms of tapping down the pandemic for prisoners, but there’s also concern regarding what prisoners are coming out and if they’re violent.”

So you may wonder, why are gun shops open? Are they considered essential? Caldwell said they are.

“Under both the federal issued orders and under the state order that the governor issued, gun shops are determined to be essential.”

Caldwell said it’s about preserving the second amendment right to bare arms and so hunters can feed their families.

“Particularly at this time when people are concerned about food supply, being able to know that they can go out into our forests to hunt whether it’s pig or on other islands, deer, that’s a way to gather food and that’s critical and that’s essential.”

The surge in gun sales does raise some concerns.

“It’s a bit concerning because a lot of these people are just going to buy this gun, register it, and they’re going to keep it at home for protection. They’re not going to take the time needed to get the training required to be proficient with a firearm,” Tenney said.

He said going to the gun range and practicing shooting the gun are important to know how to properly use it.

“‘Cause the last thing that you’re going to want to do is hurt yourself or a member of your family or some innocent person because you are inexperienced. Once that bullet leaves the end of that chamber, there’s no taking it back. You’re responsible for everything that it should contact.”

Tenney said 808 Gun Club’s shooting range is still open for gun owners to practice shooting, but it’s by appointment only.

The Kokohead Public Shooting range is closed through April 30th due to the pandemic.

Caldwell is urging everyone who owns a gun to adhere to the law, practice gun safety and to call police in an emergency.

“When there’s a problem, call 911 first and ask the Honolulu Police Department to step-up. Don’t take action yourself ,” Caldwell said.

The process to purchase a gun hasn’t changed according to Tenney.

“You still have to fit a certain criteria. And to get a handgun, you have to have a safety class taught by an instructor. A long gun, you just need to pass the qualifications, the background check. The only thing that has changed is instead of walking-in and filling out or applying for your permit to acquire either a handgun or long gun, registering your gun etc., you have to call for an appointment,” Tenney explained.

Due to the surge in gun purchases, that process may take longer than normal, Tenney said.

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