ABC News Corona Virus Economic Impacts

Gun background checks double in Colorado amid coronavirus crisis, officials say

Preppers, housewives and ranchers are among those seeking firearms.

The number of firearms background checks in Colorado has doubled compared with the same time last year, perhaps a sign of the unease Americans feel amid the coronavirus crisis.

More than 14,000 background checks for firearms transfers have been received in the last week, compared to about 7,000 checks conducted in the same timeframe last year, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Tuesday.

The current queue for background checks is at about 5,000, with a wait time of about two days, according to the release. Prior to the surge, the wait time for firearms background checks for Federal Firearms Licensees and their customers ranged between five and eight minutes.

The CBI is expanding operations to meet the demand.

While CBI officials would not speculate as to the reason for the spike in requests, Colorado gun dealers who spoke to ABC News confirmed the bureau's statistics and said the reason was clear: coronavirus.

Christopher, the manager of a Colorado Springs gun shop who asked that his last name not be used, said the surge is due to "mass hysteria over guarding toilet paper," adding that it's not just gun enthusiasts stocking up on firearms but also "preppers, housewives and ranchers."

"They're worried about home invasions because they're afraid people will steal their supplies," he said.

The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado gun rights organization, posted a photo in jest of the panic buying of toilet paper occurring all over the globe.

However, gun control advocates warned against letting alarm and anxiety override the need for safety.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told ABC News that gun groups and stores use fear to drive up sales.

"We've seen that time and again after natural disasters," Watts said.

Sandy Phillips, the founder of Survivors Empowered whose daughter, Jessi Ghawi, died in the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012, told ABC News that "buying more guns is a reckless response to the virus."

"You can't shoot a virus, so what are you going to do, shoot your fellow citizens because they have toilet paper when you don't?" Phillips said.

Phillips also hypothesized that there may be an increase in suicides, domestic violence shootings and accidental shootings "because children are home from school and they always know where the guns are kept."

This buying frenzy isn't just occurring in Colorado, but all over the country, The Associated Press reported.

Jay Wallace, owner of Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia, told the AP that ammunition sales had increased more than five times the usual numbers.

Gun sales typically rise during election years, but nearly 350,000 more were sold in January and February than in those months in 2016, according to AP.

What to know about the coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.