New Yorkers flock to gun shops during coronavirus crisis

The lines are long for groceries and also for guns as dozens of people waited to get inside Coliseum Gun Traders in Nassau County on Tuesday morning.

"I woke up and said I want to be protected tomorrow," Jonathan Sulay said. "Who knows what will happen."

Shop owner Andrew Chernoff said sales are soaring as the fears of the coronavirus crisis continue to climb.

"We get inventory in every day, we received this morning already," he said. "I'm sure by the end of the day, we'll be out again."

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Some of the customers, who wore face masks and gloves, said they fear COVID-19 could lead to a breakdown of public order with looting and robberies.

Chernoff said he is mostly selling shotguns, which start around $300.

"We're now seeing a lot of first-time gun buyers, who never would've thought to buy a gun before, who are now saying, 'I need something to protect myself,'" Chernoff said.

But when it comes to protection, County Executive Laura Curran said social distancing is the best weapon.

"Guns aren't going to fight the virus," Curran said at a press conference. "What will fight the virus is people staying home and isolating themselves and not having birthday parties and weddings and clustering together in big groups."

While crime is up for the year in Nassau County, officials said it has dropped significantly over the past week in part due to COVID-19.

"People are concerned that they need to protect themselves, the Nassau County Police Department will protect you," Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. "That's our job, we got you. We'll do what's right by you."

In most parts of New York, anyone 18 or older who passes a background check can buy a long gun. (Laws in New York City are different.)

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