Hungarians are flocking to gun stores to buy all legally available self-defense weapons out of fear that crime could dramatically increase during the coronavirus pandemic, news channel HírTV reported on Tuesday.
“There is a nationwide shortage of pepper-ball ammunition. I expect a delivery of 1,200 rounds tomorrow and half of that has already been sold,” gun shop owner Zoltán Gerő told HírTV. His shop mostly sells legally available Airsoft, gas or rubber bullet pistols. “Whereas previously most of our sales were for sport, while recently the demand for self-defense weapons has spiked.”
Repeat-fire Airsoft weapons are also in high demand, as would be bows and crossbows, but the latter two are illegal in Hungary.
“Now 80 to 90 percent of our sales are self-defense weapons like gas pistols and rubber-bullet pistols, as well as pepper spray in large quantities”, Gerő said. He added that most of recent his customers are first-time buyers, typically from suburban areas. One customer recently bought four gas pistols.
Other gun store owners are reporting a similar rush on firearms and other weapons.
“We are selling five times as much as in a normal March,” Gabor Vass, a Budapest gun store owner, told Reuters.
“We could sell 15 times more if we had any more rubber bullet weapons, but we ran out,” he added.
Vass believes people are driven by a fear that the crisis could get worse and supplies could run out. He noted that even non-combat gas pistols can kill at close ranges, making them dangerous in the wrong hands.
“If people brawl over toilet paper now, what will they do later? Once shops run out of stock, people will take what they need. Police can hardly deal with every petty theft,” he said.
An estimated 300,000 of Hungary’s 10 million citizens have gun licenses but for certain light arms, such as Airsoft guns or rubber bullet pistols, a license is not necessary.
Purchasing a handgun in Hungary is a lengthy and convoluted procedure. Typically, you can only buy a pistol or revolver after attending and successfully passing a firearm handling course. Even then, such weapons can only be carried in a locked container to a shooting range and back.
Concealed carry is only allowed for law enforcement and other government agencies. Hungarians are only allowed to carry knives with a maximum 8-centimeter (3.14-inch) blade.
A similar jump in firearms sales has occurred in the United States following the coronavirus outbreak, with people rushing to buy guns and ammunition. Internet retailer ammo.com wrote that it saw a 309 percent increase in revenue in February and a 222 percent jump in transactions, which it wrote was “unprecedented”.
Title image: Hungarian gun shop owner Zoltán Gerő. (source: HírTV)