As gun sales soar, indoor shooting range opens in south Lawrence
The gun business is booming, which means Mondays are too at one particular south Lawrence shopping center.
Shooters Gun Club has opened in the shopping center near 25th and Iowa streets. The business isn’t brand new; it opened just a few days before the pandemic struck the Lawrence area in March. I’m going back and catching up with some of those businesses that I normally would have written about but didn’t because pandemic matters took precedence.
Owner Rick Sells said opening during the pandemic has had its challenges, but the health crisis also has been a boon for the gun business in general. National statistics show gun sales — as measured by the number of federal background checks processed — have soared in recent months. July sales were up 134% from a year ago, June sales were up 145%, May sales were up 80%, and April sales were up 71%, according to federal statistics monitored by the trade group Small Arms Analytics.
“The biggest problem is a lack of guns,” Sells said. “You can’t get your hands on new guns, and ammunition prices have almost tripled in some cases since March.”
Sells said he had been able to purchase only five new guns in the last 13 weeks to stock the gun store at his business. More of the club’s business has come from people who use the firing range to practice with guns they already own.
But why is business really booming on Mondays? Because that’s the day the two hair salons next to the gun club are closed. So, the club opens the range up on Mondays to patrons who want to shoot their bigger firearms, such as AR-15, .30-06, AK-47 and other similar weapons. The range is capable of handling the larger caliber weapons on any day, but they are noisier, so Sells encourages it on the day when fewer of his commercial neighbors are in the office.
“On Mondays we can cut loose,” he said.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
Plenty of other people with more standard weapons use the range on a regular basis, Sells said. The club has eight firing lanes 25 yards long. People can buy an annual membership at about $30 per month that allows them to shoot as often as they wish. Or people simply can buy a day pass if they don’t want to buy a membership. Gun rentals also are available for people who don’t own a firearm or for people who simply want to shoot something different.
Interest in owning a firearm, especially for self-protection, is fairly strong in Lawrence, Sells said. The business is offering a concealed-carry training class every other week, and the 25 seats available often fill up, he said.
He said the class has been particularly popular with women.
“The mindset in America is always what people are seeing on TV,” Sells said. “What they are seeing right now I think is scaring people. I know it is happening with single women. Whether it is right or wrong is not for me to judge, but I think people are a little afraid right now.”
Sells said he thought one of the bigger benefits of his business was that people could safely learn about not only firearms but also the laws governing their use. The concealed-carry classes get into some of the basics of self-defense law, and the business also offers private firearm training sessions.
“What I told the city when I was working to get this business approved is that I would much rather have 20,000 people in Lawrence who have a gun and have been educated than have 20,000 people in town who have a gun and think they know the laws,” Sells said.
While firearm sells are up nationally, the increased demand has had some drawbacks for local gun clubs. The availability of new firearms to sell is one of them, but Shooters has mitigated that by selling used firearms.
“There are a lot of used guns for sale right now,” Sells said.
A tougher problem to avoid has been the cost of ammunition. Sells estimated that a box of 9 millimeter ammunition, one of the most popular types in the U.S., has increased from about $12 per box to about $30 per box since March. He said that has been one of the business’s biggest challenges during the pandemic.
“That puts a damper on how much some folks are going to shoot,” Sells said.
The business is at 2429 Iowa St., in the shopping center that also houses Bigg’s BBQ, across the parking lot from the shopping center at 25th and Iowa streets that we’ve reported is tentatively scheduled to be demolished to become a Kwik Shop.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo