‘It’s actually overwhelming’: As gun sales continue to surge, local shops try to keep up with demand

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OREGON, Wis. – Gun sales are continuing to surge throughout the United States and southern Wisconsin, continuing the trend that began in March at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I hate to use the word, but it’s incredible right now. It’s actually overwhelming,” said Steve D’Orazio, who owns Max Creek Outdoors in Oregon. The store, which has an indoor range, was consistently full of customers Saturday afternoon.

“With the pandemic and the rioting, obviously a whole different crowd of people coming in,” he said. “A lot of first time shooters.”

D’Orazio estimates sales have quadrupled, both at a local and national level. He says fear has driven many first-time buyers into the store.

“It started back in March with the pandemic, they were afraid like everybody,” he said. “It was all new to them. They wanted home protection. We had a lot of first time Madison non-gun owners that now own a gun.”

The store owner says most people looking to purchase a gun are afraid of being robbed. He says protests linked to police brutality incidents in both May and August have brought more people through the doors than ever before.

“People are scared,” D’Orazio said. “They’re still scared. This is going to go on for quite a long time.”

For now, it’s not just shop left struggling to fill the demands of customers.

“The problem is right now, the suppliers don’t have anything. Nothing,” said Chris Endres, owner of CTR Firearms in Janesville. “Every gun store, warehouse, manufacturer literally has nothing on the shelves. You cannot make it fast enough. People are buying it faster than they can produce it.”

Endres, like D’Orazio, says fear is bringing in more first-time buyers.

“It’s very intimidating for them,” he said. “You can see it in their voice. You can see it in their eyes. You can hear it in the conversation. But their fear of that firearm has now been overcome of what’s going on in the world.”

Endres says at the start of the pandemic, his store was standing room only. While sales have tapered somewhat, he says the impact has already been made.

“To put it simply, if you thought America was armed before, we doubled down,” he said. “If there were 30 million guns in America eight months ago, there’s 60 million guns in America now.”

However, Endres and D’Orazio both say they’d never push someone to purchase a firearm. Instead, the two owners say their first response is to talk with a customer about the reason they’re coming in and why they’re looking to buy before deciding if it’s the right decision.

“We just talk to them, educate them, decide what works for them,” Endres said. “We sell lethal and not lethal.”

While gun sales rise nationally, so does gun crime. Both owners say it’s impossible to draw a direct correlation between the two, but D’Orazio says he’s been disheartened to see the rise in violent crime locally.

“We have a war in our country right now,” he said. “We need to stop.”

Like many in Madison, D’Orazio says he was heartbroken to learn of the shooting death of 11-year-old Anisa Scott.

“That breaks my heart, because I’m a father and a grandfather,” he said. “But I don’t have control over that. I sell guns for a living, but all I can do is educate, educate and educate. Hopefully they leave my shop knowing how dangerous these things are. That’s where I lose control.”

D’Orazio says in recent weeks, he’s actually talked some customers *out* of purchasing a firearm.

“We had a State Street business person in here, we talked and talked. He left my shop without a gun in his hand. A lot of anger. We all know what happened on State Street. He walked in here and he was ready. He was ready to fight. But he walked out of here without a gun. I don’t know where he went or what he did, but he didn’t leave my shop with a weapon,” he said.

While business has never been better for the two owners, both are apprehensive regarding the road that lies ahead.

“We just need to slow down, start smiling,” D’Orazio said. “Shaking hands, peace. That’s where it’s at.”