Arizona native Stacy Speed, a vice president in the banking industry, has been working from her Flagstaff home during the pandemic and has found time to take on a new hobby.
“I wanted to do something for myself. I love learning,” she said. “Also, intuitively, I knew coming into this year, an election year, the timing was good for me to learn self-defense. I want to know how to protect myself.”
Speed has rarely picked up a gun before, but contacted Timberline Firearms and Training, enrolled in classes, bought her first gun, a 9mm, then a second one, a shotgun, all in the last six months. Her purchases are among more than three million firearms sales across the country since March, three million more than what normally would have been sold during these months, as estimated by Wellesley College Economics Professors Phillip Levine and Robin McKnight.
“Half of that increase occurred in June alone. This pattern highlights an important potential consequence that may result from this tumultuous period: more firearms in the hands of private citizens,” stated Levine and McKnight in a July article for the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Past spikes in firearms sales have occurred following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the San Bernardino terrorist attack, the professors report.
“I don’t feel immediately threatened, but COVID-19 plays a part,” said Speed. “We’re starting to see groups that are acting and assimilating as domestic terrorists. If that were to infiltrate Flagstaff, people would have to take care of themselves.”
“Our overall business has really skyrocketed,” said Elise Wilson, co-owner of Timberline Firearms and Training on Highway 89. “People are taking their personal safety very seriously these days and thankfully, they are seeking out training. Most of the people we’ve been seeing here recently are Flagstaff locals who have never been to Timberline before.”
Sports chiropractor Kym Wilkens of Flagstaff did not grow up with guns and, in fact, had never touched one. But recently, she contacted Timberline. “Over the last few years I’ve been spending more time camping and hiking by myself all day in the woods and just started thinking, ‘I wish I knew more about firearms. Maybe I want to own one.’”
Wilkens has been taking private lessons from Wilson. “I’m trying out different firearms and honing my skills. I will be purchasing one at some point.”
During this health crisis, economic uncertainty and protests, gun shop owners say people who have never owned a gun before are driving sales. “First-time gun owners have been our largest new customer base,” said Rob Wilson, co-owner of Timberline Firearms.
The most popular firearms currently are personal defense guns, according to Elise Wilson, ranging from a small concealed-carry size to semi-automatic handguns in the $500 to $750 range.
“We have seen significantly higher percentages of new firearms owners request and participate in training,” Rob Wilson added. “That training is both for our scheduled classes and our one-on-one personalized training.”
Since March, Speed has taken three or four classes a month and practices dry firing – shooting at a target without live ammunition – to improve her aim. “I started out with First Shots and adored the class. The next week I took a personal lesson from Elise and then went into Intro to Firearms,” she said. “It’s not just fun. It’s practical.”
“One thing I love is seeing folks like Stacy start here not knowing a thing about guns and then working on their skills, taking classes and having fun shooting and learning,” said Elise. “I love that part of the business.”
In the beginning of the year, Timberline’s classes had only a few participants enrolled. Now, the Wilsons report the beginner classes are very popular with the rise in new firearms owners. They’ve also added programs like two Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW) classes each month, which fill up weeks ahead of time. The demand for private lessons also has increased dramatically.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to help first-time gun owners make well-informed purchasing decisions though the use of our rental firearms and range,” said Rob. “We highly recommend that you ‘try it before you buy it’ because firearms are like shoes, you have to find the one that fits.”
“I’m training ladies in their 70s, entire families with kids, couples, men, women, basically everyone is wanting to learn,” said Elise. “Even those who may not like guns or are even anti-gun are seeking training. The world is a crazy place right now and people are realizing that they are responsible for their and their family’s safety.”
“I feel totally at home at the shooting range,” said Speed. “When I leave the classes, I feel so much more confident.” FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN