GREAT FALLS — As states continue to grapple with what constitutes an "essential" business, another industry that has received varying answers state to state is the firearm and ammunition industry.
In Montana, firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers were deemed essential by Governor Steve Bullock. According to Bullock, they fall under the category of “Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations.”
As with a lot of the essential industries, there is a bit of blurry picture when you look at gun and ammo stores across the United States.
Because states have autonomy when it comes to deciding which businesses are essential within their respective borders, some states have opted to close gun and ammo stores, while others have let them be.
In Great Falls, James Mitchell and his wife Tammy of Mitchell Supply have a partnership with local law enforcement agencies, which contributed to them being allowed to remain open during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We work with the Sheriff’s Office, the Detention Center, the City Police, and other outlying sheriff departments,” said James Mitchell. “Besides furnishing supplies, we also work on some of the firearms.”
The gun and ammo store is taking extra precautions to keep their employees and customers healthy and safe while staying open for business.
James says that they have put an emphasis on sanitizing and social distancing, per CDC recommendations. He also added that if anyone is feeling sick, but they still want to give the store their business, they are welcome to come and stand at the door, and the employees at Mitchell Supply will help from there.
Across the country, ammunition sales are up. James says that the surge in buying comes from a place of uncertainty.
“We’ve seen a lot more women coming in, women with children or single women, just wanting to have something for protection,” James said. “What’s affecting everybody right now is the uncertainty. It’s just like having a spare tire, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
Mitchell said that the store will limit occupancy if it comes to that, but as of right now that has not been an issue, even though the store has seen an increase in sales over the last couple weeks.
Other businesses that fall under the “Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations” category include electronics stores, hardware stores, store that sell hygiene and sanitary equipment, and stores that sell food and beverages.