How Sheriffs Are Handling Demand for Guns Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office wants citizens to know that they can still renew their handgun permits.
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office wants citizens to know that they can still renew their handgun permits.
One bizarre and unanticipated side effect of the COVID-19 outbreak (aside from panic buying of items such as toilet paper) is an enormous demand for guns and ammunition in Colorado, presumably because some folks fear the spread of the virus will lead to a complete Road Warrior-style societal breakdown.

This perceived need has placed Colorado sheriff's offices in a tricky situation. They need to strike a balance between best safety practices and not causing freakouts by individuals who want to supplement their arsenal.

As Penelope Purdy reported yesterday, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation received approximately double the number of background-check requests over the past week or so than it did at this same time last year; a backlog of 5,000 or so requested background checks late on March 17 inspired the agency to expand the hours of staffers tasked with processing them. Meanwhile, several Denver-area firearms retailers are nearly sold out of some popular firearms and ammo.

No wonder handguns are so prominently mentioned in the latest update from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, based on the Western Slope, in regard to "operational impacts of COVID-19."

As of today, March 18, the MCSO has suspended in-person video visitation for the general public, limiting the service to attorneys communicating with clients, though off-site video visitation remains available (click for more details), and inmates can be contacted by phone, email or snail mail. In addition, the detention lobby is still open, and loved ones can use an in-person kiosk to add funds to accounts for those incarcerated.

In the meantime, the sheriff's office is temporarily suspending evictions, VIN verifications and fingerprinting services, as well as new concealed-handgun permit applications — "due to required fingerprinting," the agency stresses. However, the MCSO notes, "These changes do not impact concealed-handgun permits renewal applications."

Note that Colorado only requires permits for firearms if an individual wants to conceal-carry a gun. Most residents eighteen and older can legally "open carry" under the Colorado Constitution unless local municipalities ban it, as Denver does with some exceptions, such as moving a firearm between one's car and home.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office in Fremont County, based in the southern Colorado community of Cañon City, reveals that in order to "protect our employees and the community we serve," it will be implementing the following:
• All on-site jail visits are being discontinued immediately until further notice. Visitation can still occur via telephone, email or letter. Phone visitation will occur during the same hours as regular visitation.
• Volunteer programs are temporarily suspended until further notice
• Fingerprinting services are temporarily suspended until further notice
• VIN inspection services are temporarily suspended until further notice
As for concealed-handgun permits, the sheriff's office stresses that they will still be accepted online at this address. Previous appointments for photos and fingerprints will have to be rescheduled, but "emergency need (domestic violence victim or other protected party) will be assessed on a case-by-case basis."

Despite COVID-19, the Second Amendment is alive and well.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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