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Spokane shoppers making a run on guns and ammunition during outbreak

Adrain, who founded company based on self-preservation called Safety and Security and Heracles Research, has been preparing for a situation like the coronavirus outbreak for more than a decade. He’s shown here in 2016. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane shoppers continue to ravage grocery store shelves, but they also have begun buying guns, ammunition and camping supplies as coronavirus concerns have turned to thoughts about home defense.

White Elephant clerks said they sold out of popular-caliber bullets, including .357 magnum, .38, .44 magnum and 9 mm shells. Just north up Division Street at The General Store, clerks were running low on most calibers of ammunition and home-defense shotgun shells, and were even selling arrows.

Sales clerk Luis Pimentel said the General Store was running low on freeze-dried food. They also sold plenty of camping gear, maps, emergency blankets, stun guns and batons.

“We had a shopper talking about hunting turkeys and deer to live off the land,” Pimentel said. “Black Friday has nothing on this.”

The run on survival gear came as no surprise to John Adrain, a Spokane inventor who founded a company based on self-preservation. Adrain has been preparing for a situation like the coronavirus outbreak for more than a decade. He was featured on 2012 episode of National Geographic channel’s “Doomsday Preppers.”

“I told people that they needed to be prepared 10 years ago and they called me a nut job,” Adrain said. “When they interviewed me on ‘Doomsday Preppers,’ I said these store shelves will be empty in a couple of days. It’s not hard to see that we were headed for the perfect storm.”

Adrain, 60, the CEO and founder of Safety and Security and Heracles Research, said his father was one of the U.S. Marines who survived the bitter march from the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. Whenever his family traveled, his father always trained Adrain to have an emergency blanket and water in the car.

“This is a huge wake-up call for this country,” Adrain said. “We have the ability to be self-sufficient.”

Adrain has turned the preparations for civil unrest into a growing business. With the help of Heracles Research, he has invented Kevlar window blinds that are designed to stop bullets and can be placed in everything from a home to a commercial building.

“All my focus has been in the blinds. In the last few weeks, I’ve quoted orders for millions of dollars worth of blinds,” he said. “They stop bullets, and it’s also fire-resistant.”

While he takes orders for the blinds, which cost more than $100 a square foot, he is also quarantining himself along with his two young daughters.

“There is nothing like planning. Anybody who is not prepared is basically a moron,” he said.

Adrain, who sells his items online, suggested residents keep a 90-day supply of medications and dry food available in the home.

“You can’t have too much water. I’ve always kept rice, beans, canned goods, peanut butter … a decently balanced diet,” he said. “But you also have to stay positive and exercise. Your immune system is greater when people are positive and out moving around.”

Rather than toilet paper, Adrain suggested that homeowners purchase bottles of 190 proof Everclear.

“If you mix it with water, it’s better than any of these sanitizers,” he said. “It will kill everything, and while you are cleaning, you can have a drink.”

Adrain did not suggest that Spokane residents stock ammunition and weapons. But he understands people who do.

“It’s just common sense to be armed,” he said. “What’s the sense of having all these things if you can’t stop someone from taking them.”

The recent shopping suggests that several consumers had reached that same conclusion.

“We’ve sold a lot of guns,” said Toni Bradford, a sales clerk at White Elephant. “It’s been kind of crazy. They say it’s all for home defense.”

Her co-worker, Serina Lewis, said shoppers have also stocked up on fire starters and survival items that can also be used for camping.

At the General Store, which sells ammunition but hasn’t sold guns since 2007, Pimentel said he was sold out of most ammunition used in AR-15s. But he was also selling shells for hunting rifles and handguns.

“When they shut down the schools, that’s when people started panicking,” he said.

Adrain finished with a note of optimism for how it will work out.

“Going into the future, people are going to look at things differently and will be more prepared,” he said. “Whenever you can be self-sufficient, it’s much better. This country is going to rebound in a big way. Hopefully, this is a learning process for people.”