Ammo shelves at Kinsey's Outdoors

Shelves inside Kinsey's Outdoors in Mount Joy were sparse Monday afternoon, when store officials spoke about a recent increase in firearms and ammunition buying. The said sales picked up drastically after COVID-19 was discovered in central Pennsylvania.

The number of firearms-related transactions reported Tuesday in Pennsylvania was more than three times higher than those reported on the same date last year, according to state police.

In fact, there were so many that an internet-powered background check system went offline two times, said Major Gary Dance state police’s Bureau of Records director.

“Rumors circulating on social media that PICS has been shutdown as part of the commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic are false,” Dance said.

The abbreviation PICS stands for Pennsylvania Instant Check System, which is used by law enforcement and licensed firearms dealers to ensure that gun-buying customers are legally eligible to purchase firearms and receive licenses to carry them.

That system went offline twice Tuesday, once from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and then again from 5 to 8:40 p.m., Dance announced in a news release.

Still, there were 4,342 gun-related transactions completed across the state, he said. On March 17, 2019, there were only 1,359.

Transactions included purchases, transfers, evidence returns and license to carry applications, state police said.

Those numbers were released only a few days after firearms dealers across Lancaster County reported an uptick in sales stoked by fears of the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.

“The Pennsylvania State Police is working with its vendor to increase processing power to avoid future backlogs and will adjust staffing as needed to meet demand,” Dance said. “We regret any inconvenience yesterday’s downtime caused to licensed firearm dealers and their customers.”