Murdoch’s in Silverthorne suspends gun sales amid surge in demand
SILVERTHORNE — Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply in Silverthorne has suspended the sale of firearms to help curb large gatherings inside the store and to encourage social distancing among customers.
Firearms sales have skyrocketed over the past couple of weeks as residents around the state continue to stockpile goods, including guns and ammunition. Things are no different in Summit County, where the store quickly saw a surge in traffic from individuals trying to make purchases.
“You’re seeing this statewide,” store manager Scott Kemball-Cook said. “Call any sporting goods store in the state and I guarantee they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s kind of like people buying toilet paper.”
Kemball-Cook said the rush of customers was one of the reasons the store was forced to shut down sales — not because of the product but because officials are having trouble keeping up with the demand.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which facilitates background checks for the purchase and transfer of firearms, has seen a huge backlog of requests stack up in recent weeks. Background checks that typically take a retailer between five and eight minutes to complete are now taking a couple of days.
In the last week, there have been 25,468 background checks received by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation compared with 7,773 in the same period last year — a 227% increase. The sustained demand has resulted in a queue of more than 12,000 background checks.
“Generally speaking, there’s been a dramatic increase across the nation,” said Susan Medina, a spokesperson for the bureau. “All the states are trying to access the system to conduct these background checks. But also, with social distancing and the like, we simply can’t have 50 people in a space trying to work through the checks. We have to balance that with the safety of our staff and preventing community spread.”
Medina noted that the bureau has made efforts to address the surge, including increasing remote workers and cross-training employees to contribute to chipping away at the backlog. But that process could take a while.
“It is just unprecedented volume,” Medina said. “I’m likening it to a consistent surge of Black Friday numbers, which is our busiest day of the year typically, and we’re able to staff and prepare for that. But these sustained number are extremely challenging.”
Kemball-Cook said facilitating background checks isn’t the only issue with ongoing firearm sales. He noted that maintaining that aspect of the business was difficult with a shortage of employees, and the rush was creating unsafe crowds inside the store.
Both county and state public health orders prohibit the gathering of more than 10 people, a recent tightening from 50 people. The town of Silverthorne asked Murdoch’s to shut down sales if the crowds couldn’t be kept in check.
“Someone received a call from someone concerned with the large gatherings that particular product was creating,” Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said. “That was the genesis of the conversation. … We did suggest that if they couldn’t manage the crowd — and honor the spirit of the health order, which is to make people keep their distance — then (suspending firearm sales) would be helpful to us.”
Kemball-Cook said the store is still allowing the sale of other sporting goods accessories, including ammunition, and that there may be an opportunity in the near future for the store to resume gun sales.
Murdoch’s is open to supply essential goods like hardware and pet food, but Hyland said the town is hoping to work with businesses to find ways they can continue to function within the “spirit of the order.”
“It’s not about that specific product,” Hyland said. “It’s about how we’re managing the crowds. … Maybe there’s a way to manage that process, maybe by appointment, so that we don’t have 20 people at the counter.”
Until then, the store will continue to suspend gun sales.
“We’re being proactive and just holding off until we come up with a system where perhaps we can move forward with that,” Kemball-Cook said. “That’s kind of where we are at the moment.”
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