At 3 Cousins Firearms in Lewiston, less than a mile and a half from Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, where one of the two mass shootings took place, customers were shopping for guns and ammunition on Friday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

SCARBOROUGH — Keisha Hernandez stood in line for over an hour and a half to buy a compact Ruger pistol at Cabela’s in Scarborough on Friday.

Given the events from Wednesday night, she said, it was a worthwhile wait.

“Definitely,” the 36-year-old Portland resident said. “I’m a mother of three, so I have to protect my kiddos.”

Long lines, rising sales and crowded stores have been a scene at gun shops throughout Maine since Thursday morning, when stores opened for the first time since mass shootings in Lewiston on Wednesday night resulted in 18 deaths.

Tony Lewis, the owner of T and K Tactical in Augusta, said he did more business Thursday “than I did all of last month.” While other factors, such as the opening of the regular firearm season for deer hunting Saturday, could be contributing to the surge, Lewis said the biggest reason has been related to safety.

“People are scared,” he said. “Law enforcement’s pretty focused on finding this person, so if (civilians) call for assistance, they’re probably not going to get it right away. So they want to make sure they can protect themselves.”


Other stores saw the same rush, which has been reminiscent of a run on ammo that took place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A worker at Howell’s Gun Shop in Gray said “we’ve seen more business (recently).”

At 3 Cousins Firearms in Lewiston, less than a mile and a half from Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant where one of the two shootings took place, customers were lining up to buy guns early Friday morning.

“It’s a madhouse,” said Trevor Brooks, a worker at the store.

Nearly 47% of Maine adults are estimated to live in a home with a firearm, according to a nationwide study published in 2020 by the nonprofit RAND Corporation.

Elias Bassile, the general manager of the Maine Ammo Company in Sanford, said he didn’t notice an increase in business at the store the ammunition manufacturer operates. But he did see an increase in requests from other stores to help with their ammunition supply Thursday and Friday.

“People keep wanting ammo, but they’ve always wanted ammo,” said Bassile, who officially filed paperwork earlier this month to run against Democrat Chellie Pingree in 2024 for her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I do suspect that there are folks out there that are running around trying to get more ammunition because they’re scared. I have no doubt of that. No doubt.”


At T and K Tactical, Lewis said at 2 p.m. Thursday that he had a two-inch thick stack of background checks required for gun sales, all of which had been submitted since his store opened at 10 a.m. Since Wednesday, Lewis said, he’s had at least six people in the store at any moment, and that both guns and ammunition have seen a spike in sales.

“Have you ever seen chum thrown in the water with sharks? That’s what it has been like,” said Lewis, 55. “It’s been pretty crazy.”

Lewis moved from a 400-square foot building to a 1,500-square foot facility two weeks ago. He said the line of customers the last two days might have stretched out the door at the old building.

“It’s been non-stop since 10 a.m. (Thursday) morning,” he said. “It has been overwhelming. … It’s been just me all this time. Clearly, I need to get some help.”

Patrick Marco, a 26-year-old from Harrison, went to Cabela’s in Scarborough to purchase .30-06 ammunition for the upcoming hunting season. Marco has visited the store “a bunch of times,” and said the firearms section was busier than normal.

“There are a lot of people going in there buying whatever they can get their hands on right now, as far as ammo goes,” he said. “It’s probably a little bit more of a response to what happened in Lewiston-Auburn than the hunting this season, for sure. I think a lot of people are trying to get themselves in a good state of mind, and a little bit of added protection.”


Chris Baker, 37, of Buxton noticed while shopping for a 9 mm pistol holster that the ammunition shelves at Cabela’s were light, and likewise said he felt the shootings Wednesday were the reason.

“I would suggest that the handgun ammo is down compared to normal. People are wanting to conceal carry,” he said. “You can’t really conceal carry a rifle. You’re going to see a little bit more of your 223, 5.56 stuff (rifle ammunition) on the shelf. People are trying to arm themselves, out of what happened recently, with handgun ammo.”

Baker, though, said safety isn’t the only driving force behind the surge.

“I think, chiefly, the issue is that every time we see one of these mass-casualty shootings, people go crazy and they stock up,” he said. “We always see a push and a move towards pulling away the Second Amendment. … There could be that push to limit the amount of ammo we can buy. … I think that has a bearing on it, more than ‘I need to defend myself, I need more ammo.’ ”

Central Maine Newspapers reporters Aryan Rai and Keith Edwards contributed to this report.

UPDATE: This story was corrected on Oct. 30 at 6:15 p.m. to show that the RAND Corporation is the source of data for estimates of Maine adults living in a home with a firearm.

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