The COVID-19 pandemic has had a mixed effect on Joplin Centerfire, a local indoor shooting range.
Social distancing and a demand for ammunition have kept people away from the range. Cory Adkins, chief range officer for the business, said people are not coming in to shoot as much as they used to.
But the lack of range business has been balanced by customers coming in to buy guns.
"Sales are significantly up," Adkins said. "It had been a trend, up until about a month ago, where we were seeing new gun ownership rates up 100% or 200% from last year."
Joplin Centerfire is seeing the same trend as other gun sellers across the country. Sales hit a historic high in January, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, with dealers selling more than 2 million firearms. According to the foundation, that's the biggest-selling January on record and 75% higher than the same month last year.
Sales were already high in 2020, from a year filled with pandemic uncertainty, a stalled economy and widespread protests over racial injustice and police brutality. The Capitol riot and inauguration of a Democratic president are believed to be responsible for January's surge.
Adkins said his customers are split between safety and legal uncertainty as reasons for purchasing.
"We see that in an increased trend of interest in concealed carry," Adkins said. "Our one-on-one intro to firearms is popular and something we really push. We get a lot of interest in that course from customers prior to them purchasing."
A spike in gun sales is nothing new during presidential years. Gun control is a common issue brought up in debates, with Republicans commonly campaigning for less control and regulation and Democrats pressing for more.
Officials with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nationwide group that advocates for tougher gun control, has already met with members of the Biden administration, according to a press release from the group.
The officials came away from that meeting saying that President Joe Biden's history of facing off against lobbyists from the National Rifle Association and Vice President Kamala Harris' record of advocating gun safety make the current administration the strongest for gun safety in history.
Louis Morgan, a spokesperson for the Joplin chapter of Moms Demand Action, said the group is seeking improved background checks and the elimination of a gun show loophole, as well as measures for safe storage of weapons in the home. Moms Demand Action is an off-shoot of Everytown for Gun Safety.
"We're looking for ways to keep gunmakers accountable," Morgan said. "Not so people can't get access to firearms, but those who do get access will practice proper gun safety and protocols."
However, throughout Missouri and Kansas, legislation is trending in the opposite direction.
The Missouri House on Feb. 4 passed a bill that bans local police from enforcing federal gun laws. Nicknamed "Second Amendment preservation acts," such bills seek to limit implementation of any new gun restrictions the White House or a Democrat-controlled Congress might enact.
Missouri's bill in its current form would penalize local police departments that enforce federal gun laws, including the threat of minimum $50,000 fines. It awaits a hearing in the Senate.
The Newton County Commission passed a similar measure on Feb. 3. The act states that any federal laws or orders that appear to be in violation of the Second Amendment will have no effect in the county.
In Kansas, the Cherokee County Commission approved a similar resolution to Newton County's in February of 2020. And the Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would lower the age for concealed carry to 18.
Adkins said Centerfire keeps out of political debates because it seeks to serve customers with a wide variety of views and places a priority on safety and education. Because regulations can have an effect on business, however, Adkins and owners of the store keep an eye on trends.
"Some customers come in concerned, and I try to tell them that in 30 or 40 years of being in the business, there hasn't been a ton of restrictions," Adkins said. "But if the administration pushes for a major change, even then we are looking at a two-year window."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.