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Bob Warnick, owner of The Gun Shop on Eastern Ave, said sales often surge amid political and social uncertainty.

ESSEX — For Bob Warnick, owner of The Gun Shop, business mostly held steady throughout the pandemic.

“Guys have nothing else to do,” he said. “We’ve been selling a lot of gear for skeet competitions.”

Shooting — be it skeet shooting or hunting — is outdoors and socially-distanced, meaning the pastime didn’t fall victim to widespread lockdowns last year. The Gun Shop got busy last fall during the hunting season for geese and ducks. Turkey season is coming up, but Warnick said the eastern county is no good for turkey hunting.

Business has been up recently, though, for a different reason — the transition of power from President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.

It’s a cycle Warnick recognizes.

He recalled a rush to buy guns and ammunition following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 and transition into 2009. This time around feels different, though, because of the social unrest that swept the nation alongside the pandemic last year.

Warnick said violent protests, including those that sought to wrest the power of law enforcement away from police, set many people on edge.

“People saw what happened in Seattle, and our sales increased,” he recalled, referencing an ‘autonomous zone’ established for three weeks by protestors in the city in June. “It’s panic, and rumors.”

An ongoing high-profile lawsuit against the National Rifle Association didn’t help either. With political uncertainty, sales of home defense weapons and ammunition increased more than equipment for hunting.

The pandemic certainly complicates things — interruptions to a global supply chain mean Warnick sometimes has trouble keeping his shelves stocked with ammunition.

“Our distributor is keeping us well supplied,” he said. “We’ll put out four or five boxes of nine millimeter and it’s gone quick.”

He said that sometimes customers will wait for Warnick to put out new stock and then buy it up right away. Other times, word goes out through a network of customers who descend on the shop throughout the day hoping to score some of the ammunition. On especially busy days, they sometimes limit customers to two boxes each.

Warnick had no complaints about the uptick in business, but stressed that customers are mostly seeking to bolster their home defenses — Warnick expects everyone to remain peaceful.

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