Sudbury

U.S. demand for guns causing supply 'pinch' for northern Ontario hunters

Hunters in northern Ontario may have a difficult time buying guns and ammunition this fall, as stock and shipments from the U.S. have hit a bit of a supply chain “pinch.”

Stock up before hunting season, outfitters say, as supply chains from the U.S. hitting hurdles

Walter Boeswald, manager at Ramakko’s in Sudbury, says the store is still waiting for supplies that would normally be in stock before the moose hunt. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Hunters in northern Ontario may have a difficult time buying guns and ammunition this fall, as stock and shipments from the U.S. have hit a supply chain "pinch."

Walter Boeswald, a manager at Ramakko's Source for Adventure in Sudbury. says they're not sounding the alarm bells yet, but he is advising hunters to stock up on gear before hunting season.

"Things that should have been here in stock, let's say, three or four months ago are just starting to come in, if they are coming in at all," Boeswald said. 

"Even though we were able to get a lot of stuff, we still are missing a ton of inventory."

Although he wouldn't call it a shortage, Boeswald said the supply chain coming over the border is in a small "pinch."

"So it's kind of just a scramble, trying to get anything," he said. "So it could be waterfowl calls. It could be our stock in ammunition. It all depends and varies from who's shipping what, and what happened to them."

Boeswald said the recent pandemic also drove up demand, as people opted to stay home instead of travelling for the summer, which created a bigger demand for camping, fishing and hunting gear. 

"Things that normally are everywhere in stock, like, let's say shotgun, sporting ammunition or anything like that. I mean, you can't get any right now," he said. 

But he said hunters, at least in the Sudbury area, shouldn't be too concerned about being left out.

"It's not like we absolutely...or anyone, for that matter, is desperate for inventory," he said. "I think it's just, you know, we're selling a lot. And then the fact of the matter is, is that even though we forecasted for it and we've increased the orders, everyone else has done that, too."

"But I think for the most part, it's going to be okay."

Reg Perry, who's owned Perry's Great Northern Gun and Bow Shop in Sault Ste. Marie for over 30 years, said even though they've weathered a few storms with supply before, this time it feels a little different.  

"There was a huge rush just before everything got shut down with COVID-19," Perry said. "And as soon as we were able to get back up and going, demand has been extremely strong."

"Unfortunately, the supply chain is unable to keep up with the demand. And the Canadian side of the equation usually gets the short stick when there's a big, buying frenzy or stockpiling going on on the American side."

"Whenever there's any kind of unrest over there, then they tend to go into a real buying mode and the stockpiling of both guns and ammo." 

Prices are certainly not going down and the supply is going to get worse- Reg Perry, owner, Perry's Great Northern Gun and Bow Shop

Part of that gun shortage is driven by uncertainty around the November presidential elections, he said.

He also noticed a bit of a spike in demand as the pandemic took hold, a decision Perry said was probably a wise one.

"People were smart to buy when they could find it and when they could get it, because we are facing shortages and price increases," he said. 

"So people actually should be getting their fall hunting ammo now, wherever they can find it. Prices are certainly not going down and the supply is going to get worse."

The numbers coming out of the United States suggest a pretty grim picture for supply. 

In a report released September 1, Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, a research group based out of the U.S., said:

"Estimated U.S. firearms unit sales in August 2020 increased year-over-year by 57.8%. The year-to-date total now exceeds the whole of 2019."

Timothy Lytton is the author of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts, and a distinguished university professor and professor of law at Georgia State University. (Twitter- @GeorgiaStateLaw)

Driving the demand is a combination of two things, according to Timothy Lytton, a distinguished university professor & professor of Law at Georgia State University.

"One reason is, I think that there are a lot of people who are gun enthusiasts who are quite worried about the government and the beginning of government controls around public health and people's ability to move about freely," Lytton said. 

That plays into their general fears about the government and their Second Amendment rights. When Republican governments are in power, sales become sluggish. Lytton said the recent industry slowdow n– before COVID-19 –  is sometimes referred to as the "Trump Slump." 

But when Democrats take hold of government, gun owners become wary.

"Gun enthusiasts often have a narrative that private firearms ownership –  not just one or two weapons, but really building an arsenal –  is necessary to protect a person's liberty against a kind of overarching or big government."

"When Democrats look like they might win elections, people go out and purchase firearms because they're worried about increased gun control restrictions," he said. 

Lytton, who also authored Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts, said there's another demographic that's pushing demand: first-time gun owners.

"There are a number of people who I think are increasingly nervous because of the pandemic that essential services, like fire and rescue and first responders, were overwhelmed and that they wouldn't be available to respond to people if there were a need for protection," Lytton said. 

Those fears motivated them to buy firearms for the first time.

"And this increase has been so marked that, in fact, in the United States, sales for firearms in 2020 up until August have actually equalled the total number of firearms sold all of last year," he said.

"To give you another take, there's been an increase in gun sales in the United States this year to last year, 66 per cent more firearms and handguns were purchased this year in the United States than last year and a 48 percent increase in sales from this year compared to last year."

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca

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