As toilet paper and food started disappearing from supermarket shelves, authorities were also reporting a spike in applications for gun licences.
NSW cryptocurrency trader John Nguyen is one of many Australians who after seeing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, decided he wanted to purchase a firearm.
When COVID-19 began killing large numbers of people China, Mr Nguyen began investigating purchasing property in remote parts of New Zealand so he could independently support himself and harvest food.
The decision to apply for a gun licence was solidified in February, after he watched overseas news coverage of US President Donald Trump deliver what Mr Nguyen describes as a “shambles” of a response to the virus.
Despite assurances from Australia’s Prime Minister that our food supply was secure, Mr Nguyen decided he wanted to learn how to hunt in case local supply chains did get interrupted.
“Watching people go insane over toilet paper is just like, how did this happen?”
“Something that always stuck with me is society is only three missed meals away from total anarchy.
“We’re not all that different from animals, at the end of the day, we still require protein of some source and if supply chains start breaking down the sh** will hit the fan.”
‘Reactionary step’: Call for calm amid pandemic restrictions
Gun Control Australia’s Piers Grove told Yahoo News Australia that while he understands the coronavirus has got people “very spooked”, now is not the time for Australians to be building their firearms arsenals.
While Mr Grove doesn’t argue against an Australian owning a firearm to hunt for their own food, he doesn’t think now is the right time to start learning to shoot.
“It’s a very reactionary step – most people who have a firearm licence have a firearm, and for those who don’t it seems like a very perverse time to be going about that,” he said.
“We have extraordinary food security in this country, we produce three times what we need as a population, I just do not see there is need to be bringing more firearms into our community in such an uncertain time.”
Reports of surge in firearms sales
As coronavirus restrictions were implemented, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia all placed additional restrictions on firearm sales for sporting and recreation purposes.
On March 31, Victorian police minister Lisa Neville said the measures were to keep “the community safe,” saying there had been a doubling of attempts to access certain firearms and ammunition.
“We know there are pressures around family violence and also around work and people spending a lot of of time together,” she said.
“We’re also concerned about making sure we don’t have additional firearms and ammunition in our community that criminals may also access.”
Gun Safety Alliance spokesperson Stephen Bendle said government figures were concerning, adding it’s important to ensure that all new gun acquisitions are for legitimate reasons and not self protection.
“It’s certainly a concern that people would want to start accessing firearms for reasons other than recreation and appropriate reasons,” he said.
“We don’t know the reasons why (there was an increase in sales), but one concern that we have is there are many within the gun lobby who continue to push for self-protection as a reason to own a firearm.
“At a time of a pandemic or a crisis, that is a time when people get concerned, and we would be concerned if there was an increase in people trying to acquire firearms for self-protection.”
‘We’ve been made a cheap scapegoat’: Gun lobby
While gun control advocates have welcomed government firearm sales restrictions, and urged other states to follow suit, shooting groups say the measures are discriminatory.
Sporting Shooters Association of Australia CEO, Tim Bannister, told Yahoo News Australia that government measures unfairly singled out shooters.
“Again, we’ve been made a cheap scapegoat to be kicked in the guts,” he said.
“We of all people are probably the most legally and socially responsible in Australia, we have to be by law.”
Gun ownership laws are vastly different in America to what they are in Australia.
Mr Bannister added that there has been an increase during the past 20 years in people wanting to provide food for themselves.
“There are certainly members who have expressed frustration at not being able to hunt because a firearm is an ethical and humane way of harvesting your meat for the table,” he said.
“In some states you can go fishing in a solitary sense, in other states you’re not allowed to but you can play golf.
“I’m not saying we expect everyone to get it perfect, but we would like common sense utilised and for there to be scientific health reasons, not prejudicial reasons or politically correct reasons.”
Gun applicant changed forever by pandemic
While Mr Nguyen waits for his gun licence application to be approved, he has a cupboard stocked full of canned goods to keep him fed.
He is confident in the reasoning behind his choice to buy a weapon, as in his eyes the world has changed for ever.
While he expects the food supply chains to hold up during the current pandemic, he fears a future recession and wants to be well prepared.
“(The gun) is not for self-defence purposes but for hunting to ensure I have a source of food there for the future just in case,” he said.
“It’s almost sacrilegious to talk about that right, like the whole breakdown of society.
“No one knows how far that could potentially go, but no one wants to be unprepared for that either.”