On a typical business day, Greg Collins says he might sell a handful of guns and a few boxes of ammunition.


"Now we’re selling from 30 to 50 guns a day," said Collins, owner of Bam Bam Firearms and Sporting Goods in the Regency Shopping Center. "Business has been excellent: Some days, we do in a day what we normally do in a month."


Along with toilet paper, sanitizer and bottled water, you can add firearms, and especially ammunition, to the list of in-demand items resulting from the ongoing coronavirus scare.


Mirroring a nationwide trend, local gun dealers began seeing a surge in sales once the full weight of the pandemic crisis reached Pueblo.


Although it might be labeled as "panic buying," in uncertain times, Collins said people want to be able to protect themselves and their property.


"It started as a gradual spike and then exploded two weeks ago," he said. "Handguns, rifles, ammunition and accessories. In fact, I’m out of most of the popular ammos. I’ve been getting them in but as soon as I get them, they go out."


Collins said the "vast majority" of the customers are first-time buyers: "people who have never owned a gun and never wanted a gun in their house, until now."


"Until now" being the key phrase.


"People have told me they want to be able to protect themselves and their families," Collins said. "They are worried about police not being able to respond, say in the event of a home invasion. Police are there to enforce the law after a crime is committed, not to protect you in the living room when the criminal is busting through."


Retired psychology professor Robert "Doc" Leonetti said the surge in firearm and ammunition sales is a reflection of a nation currently rife with panic and anxiety disorders.


"People are panicking," said Leonetti, who taught for decades at Trinidad State Junior College. "People are buying things at the grocery story because they are hoarding. And the reason they are now buying guns and ammunition is a fear that someone is going to break into the house and take whatever they can get.


"In fact, I think what we are seeing is even worse than what professionals call generalized anxiety disorder."


Collins admitted that a fear of looters and looting continues to drive sales locally.


"You see all the nonsense on television," he noted. "When a panic happens, these people tear their neighborhoods apart. Most of these people are law-abiding citizens, but they don’t want to see their house tore apart or their loved ones hurt."


A viable indicator of the surge in firearm sales statewide is the historic amount of requests for backgrounds checks.


Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said the department’s InstaCheck Unit received 25,468 background check requests in a week's time. A year ago, that number was just 7,773.


That’s a 227% increase.


At present, some 12,500 background check requests are in the queue, and wait times have increased exponentially.


What once would have taken a few minutes now can take up to five days.


"When the background check turnaround times exceed the federal regulation of three business days, it becomes the discretion of Federal Firearms Licensees to release firearms outside of this window," said Susan Medina, spokeswoman for CBI. "However, the CBI strongly encourages firearms dealers to hold firearms until background checks are completed."


To address what Medina termed an "unprecedented volume of background checks," CBI has implemented a number of measures, from expanding internal InstaCheck hours to cross-training specialized staff members to assist in the process.


"However, these efforts must be balanced with protecting the health and safety of employees and reducing the potential for community spread related to COVID-19," Medina said, adding that spikes and delays in background checks for firearms transfers are being reported nationwide.


Rich Concialdi, owner of RJC Firearms, 114 W. 12th St., termed the run on firearms and ammunition "outrageous," and a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.


"It’s like hysteria, throughout the industry," he said. "Certain ammunition, handgun ammunition, is almost impossible to get. I sold out. Handgun sales are really good right now, but the only problem is, people aren’t going to be able to get the gun they bought for about a week, because of the backlog on the background checks."


Concialdi said he has asked his newfound customer base about the reasons for their purchase.


"I really can’t get a straight answer as to why they are buying a gun now," he said. "Maybe they are afraid someone is going to steal their toilet paper. I think they are a little paranoid and think that doomsday is coming.


"But I don’t believe that. I am really upset about the stock market, though."


jpompia@chieftain.com


Twitter: @jpompia