Mar. 23--Gun sales in Northeast Pennsylvania soared as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
The spike caused the state's system for background checks on firearms purchases to crash twice in one day last week.
Some local gun shops were swamped last week with customers, both regulars and newcomers.
The Tommy Gun Warehouse of the Kahr Arms company in Blooming Grove, Pike County, has been selling all kinds of firearms, "everything, across the board," co-manager Bob Smart said Friday.
Who was buying? "First-timers, women -- lots of women -- and people who have been in before," Smart said.
Many customers "feel uneasy" about the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
Roll Call in West Scranton declined to comment to The Times-Tribune on Thursday about high demand for guns and ammunition.
But some of Roll Call's posts on Facebook last week referenced a spike in sales as a result of the pandemic, as well as adding staff, extending hours and taking disinfection measures.
"Due to extremely high demand, our stock is changing each moment. Please stop in to see us in lieu of calling or messaging to inquire about inventory on hand," Roll Call posted Tuesday on Facebook.
On Wednesday, the state police announced the computer system that conducts background checks on firearms purchases, which is called the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, crashed twice in one day.
"Technology challenges and a surge in requests resulted in PICS twice going offline on March 17, 2020. An isolated server issue was responsible for the morning outage from 8 to 11:30 a.m. The second outage happened between 5 and 8:40 p.m., due to a backlog of requests," according to a statement by Maj. Gary Dance, director of the state police Bureau of Records and Identification.
Even with the downtime, PICS completed 4,342 transactions Tuesday, compared with 1,359 transactions on the corresponding Tuesday in March 2019.
Transactions include background checks for purchases, transfers, evidence returns and license-to-carry applications.
State police also said they issued that statement to dispel false rumors on social media that PICS shut down as part of the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We regret any inconvenience yesterday's downtime caused to licensed firearm dealers and their customers," Dance said in the statement.
PICS is used by county sheriffs, chiefs of police of cities of the first class, and licensed firearms dealers in Pennsylvania to determine an individual's legal ability to acquire a license to carry firearms or obtain a firearm through a purchase or transfer. Most checks are completed automatically in a matter of minutes.
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