John Welcher, the second-generation owner of a Tacoma-area gun store and indoor shooting range, estimated more than 50 percent of his pandemic customers had never purchased a firearm before.

“They’re disgusted that they have to wait,” he said via telephone. “They’ll tell us ‘This is ridiculous. I never knew it was this hard to get a gun.’ This is absolutely in reaction to the coronavirus.”

He said many customers worry about local police being infected and being unable to respond to calls and protect the public.

“Who’s going to protect me now,” is what seems to flash through a lot of minds, Welcher intimated.

Adding to their shock is the discovery they cannot get a concealed pistol license because law enforcement agencies suspended acceptance of new applications, as that process involves taking fingerprints, and that violates “social distancing” guidelines. The process for Washington residents typically runs about 30 days, but until agencies return to business as usual, there is no way for honest citizens to legally carry a concealed handgun.