Minutes after 2 p.m., Rob Keyser dangled a white plastic shopping bag from his wrist as he walked out of Kinsey’s Outdoors.
It was filled with ammunition — a purchase Keyser admitted he made after reading the news about the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.
“I’m not worried about the virus. I’m more worried about the reaction to the virus,” he said, referring to widespread public panic.
He was not alone, according to Julie Bernard, the store’s marketing coordinator. Bernard said sales of both ammunition and firearms have increased since the virus made its way to the United States, even more so this past weekend after it spread to central Pennsylvania.
“I would say that’s when it started,” she said, explaining that ammunition sales were especially high.
And that was especially true for bullets of certain calibers, she said.
“I wouldn’t say running out, but I would say we are running low,” Bernard said, adding that handguns were best-selling among firearms.
About lunchtime, it was business as usual at Kinsey’s, though some shelves were bare. Keyser said one type of ammunition he was looking for was sold out.
Nathan Lamb, owner of Lanco Tactical in Elizabethtown said he was running out of items with components produced in China, where the virus was first discovered. Call takers at Dauphin County’s Bass Pro Shop and Berks County’s Cabela’s also said that some types of bullets were running low.
The same was true inside The Sportsman’s Shop in East Earl, where owner Joe Keffer talked about the efforts his employees were taking to combat contagion. They were told to frequently wash their hands, the store was being cleaned regularly and bottles of hand sanitizer were strategically placed.
Gun and ammunition sales were up there, as well, Keffer said.
“If we had toilet paper, people would be buying all of that, too,” he said, dismissing the panic, which also has depleted stock at grocery stores.
Keffer said he has seen similar runs of firearms and ammunition, usually during election time or when new gun laws are proposed or talked about. Though certain ammunition had been bought up, Keffer said he would soon be able to restock.
“There are empty fishing shelves, same as there are empty ammo shelves,” he said, downplaying the situation.
All the time, he was aware that his store could be forced to close by government mandate in an attempt to stop the virus’ spread.
“I don't worry about it,” he said. “I can't control it.”
A few minutes later, state Gov. Tom Wolf announced that all nonessential businesses would be forced to close.
Keffer said he spoke with gun dealers in urban neighborhoods, where they were seeing a much higher demand on their guns and ammunition, but to many of his customers it’s all hype.
“This area is not as reactionary,” Keffer said. “We are more conservative and not panic-driven.”