Stores across the country selling ballistic body armor, tactical gear, and firearms are seeing a huge increase in sales due to the worsening coronavirus outbreak in the US.

As of Thursday, the US had more than 1,323 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. Italy, as well as New Rochelle, New York, have gone into lockdown, and many major companies have urged their employees to self-quarantine. On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced the US would be suspending travel from much of Europe to the United States for at least 30 days.

Bracing for the worst, Americans are stockpiling face masks, nonperishables, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Prepper and survivalist stores have also seen a massive increase in sales.

“I think with the way things have escalated quite quickly around the world and in the US in just the last couple of weeks, it’s very hard to tell what’s going to happen next, and I believe it is better to be safe than sorry,” Kevin Lim, the owner of Bulletproof Zone, a tactical gear retailer, told BuzzFeed News. “That’s what our business is about, after all, keeping people safe.”

According to Matt Materazo, the founder of Gladiator Solutions, a ballistic body armor and tactical outfitting store, the coronavirus outbreak has changed the kind of orders his store has received. He said typically the majority of his business has been big bulk orders from the law enforcement and the first responder communities. Now, it’s a lot of small orders.

“We don’t usually get these one, two sales,” he told BuzzFeed News. “They’re not particularly preppers, they’re people who are seeing what’s going on and saying to themselves, ‘where is this going?'”

Materazo wouldn’t share specific sales numbers, but said the increase has been considerable. “I do of course get a certain amount of my business from the prepper community, but the majority of the uptick isn’t coming from the prepper community, it’s the general civilian population,” he said.

The surge in interest around tactical gear due to the outbreak is happening across the country. Many of the stores BuzzFeed News reached out to had posted messages on their websites apologizing for longer-than-normal wait times due to higher-than-usual demand.

“More customers are buying, and they range from those who are generally concerned to those who are seriously gearing up for ‘end of the world’ scenarios”

Lim said that if the demand continued to be high, a shortage was possible. “A lot of body armor and body armor materials are manufactured in China and we are already seeing shortages and/or extended lead times for many of the products we sell,” he said.

Unlike Gladiator Solutions, Bulletproof Zone’s customers are typically civilians and survivalists, but Lim’s noticed a surge in interest — his sales numbers have jumped between 50% and 100% since the coronavirus outbreak.

“More customers are buying, and they range from those who are generally concerned to those who are seriously gearing up for ‘end of the world’ scenarios,” he said.

Nick Groat, the president of Safe Life Defense, told BuzzFeed News he’d seen a slight increase as well, estimating about a 10% increase in civilian sales over the last few weeks. “They’re afraid the coronavirus will put the country into lockdown and they’ll defend themselves and their supplies,” he said. “Having that protection is always an excellent option.”

It’s not just body armor, though. Americans appear to be picking up firearms to go with their tactical gear as well.

Employees at several gun stores BuzzFeed News contacted said they were too busy to talk. A woman on the phone for RT Smoke N Gun Shop in Mount Vernon, New York, told BuzzFeed News she didn’t have time to give an interview. “With the panic, we are just inundated with people,” she said.

Larry Hyatt, the owner of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he has seen an increase in sales since the outbreak.

“We’re not seeing hunting guns,” he said. “It’s pretty much self-defense. We’re seeing a lot of AR-15–type guns — the ultimate self-defense gun.”

He said a lot of the customers coming in right now are senior citizens. “People who feel vulnerable are buying guns.”

According to Hyatt, the fears over both the coronavirus and a stock market crash because of the outbreak are making customers think twice about what to do during a period of civil unrest. He said there are a lot of unknowns right now.

“This is a 61-year-old store,” he said. “But this is sort of uncharted territory, we don’t know what exactly to expect.”

“We’re seeing a lot of AR-15–type guns — the ultimate self-defense gun.”

Even stores that haven’t seen a spike in sales yet are preparing for one. David Pringle, the general manager for DEGuns in Lincoln, Nebraska, said he’s spoken to distributors and other store owners who are seeing as much as 58% increases in sales.

“The spike is a real thing,” he said. “But it just hasn’t hit the area I’m in.”

Pringle had the same concerns that Lim did about not being about to keep shelves stocked should the outbreak worsen. He said that a major distributor he works with ran out of 9 mm, 2 mm, and 5.56 mm ammunition. “I was talking to a distributor and he has a dealer who just bought 100 AR-15s,” he said.

“So in some places it’s going already,” he said. “It just hasn’t gotten to everywhere, just like the coronavirus.”



The Trump administration is “looking at” investments in Chinese military companies by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Wednesday.

O’Brien’s comments come amid tensions between the United States and China over a host of issues running from disputes over trade and U.S. charges of massive Chinese espionage to Beijing’s defense build up and its establishment of military outposts on disputed islands in the South China Sea.

“It’s something we are looking at,” O’Brien responded when asked at the conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank if the federal government could examine CalPERS’ investments in Chinese defense firms. “It’s an issue of security for American investors.”

The California state executive agency is the largest U.S. public pension fund. It manages pension and health benefits for more than 1.6 million California public employees, retirees, and their families. A CalPERS representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

“Some of the CalPERS investment policies are incredibly concerning,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got folks who are going to rely on their pension for their retirement and putting those investments into companies that don’t have GAAP accounting and they don’t have the same reporting requirements that American companies do is scary.”

“If someone told me I had to invest my 401(k) in Chinese state-owned enterprises or partially state-owned enterprises, where they don’t follow the generally accepted accounting principles and they don’t have to report to independent regulatory bodies, I’d be pretty worried about that,” he continued.

“It’s something we are taking a look at and it’s concerning and, moreover, OK, why are we sending American capital to a country and supporting a defense industry that is popping out a couple of destroyers and frigates a month and threatening to have total over-mass against us in the Indo-Pacific,” O’Brien said.

Last month, U.S. Representative Jim Banks urged California to fire the fund’s chief investment officer, Yu Ben Meng, citing what he called the official’s “long and cozy” relationship with Beijing. Banks also assailed the fund’s investments in Chinese firms.

A U.S. citizen born in China, Meng has twice worked for CalPERS, the first time starting in 2008 and the second time beginning in January 2019 when he became CIO managing $400 billion in investments, according to the CalPERS website.

CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost defended Meng in a statement.

“This is a reprehensible attack on a U.S. citizen. We fully stand behind our chief investment officer who came to CalPERS with a stellar international reputation,” she said.


Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden has formally requested protection from the U.S. Secret Service, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Biden’s request begins a process by which the Department of Homeland Security will decide whether to provide the campaign with protection, though that was expected to be concluded swiftly with a favorable outcome, the two people said. The two spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

Congressional leadership was notified of the Biden campaign’s request, and the DHS secretary will make the final determination. Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said, “We don’t comment on security measures.”

The move comes a week and a half after two protesters rushed a stage in Los Angeles and came within feet of Biden during a Super Tuesday victory speech. Biden’s wife, Jill, and several staff members, including one trained security officer employed by the campaign, physically restrained the women and carried them from the stage. Neither the former vice president nor his wife was hurt.

The leading candidates in the 2012 and 2016 presidential contests had Secret Service protection by this point in those races. Neither Biden nor Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had requested protection until now.

The Secret Service protects, by statute, the president and vice president and their families, as well as some other senior government officials. It is also authorized to provide protection to major party presidential candidates, an authority granted after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

The agency said in a statement last week that it has been preparing for the 2020 campaign since January 2017, with specific training underway since early 2019. The agency said thousands of agents, officers and support staff have been identified to assist in the campaign and went through training last year that included “instruction related to physical protection, threat assessments, emergency medicine, and constitutional law.”

Biden, code-named “Celtic,” had Secret Service protection from the time he was selected as Barack Obama’s running mate through about six months after his term as vice president expired in 2017. Unlike presidents, the protection of former vice presidents does not last for life.

The process for assigning a security detail to a candidate generally requires that campaigns initiate the request for protection. The Secret Service does a threat assessment and consults with DHS officials and a congressional commission made up of the majority and minority leaders of both chambers, plus another member. The ultimate decision on whether to provide protection is made by DHS.

Some campaigns can be resistant to requesting protective details because of the additional logistical and planning constraints put on by the Secret Service’s security requirements.

Last week, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., said the House Homeland Security Committee has asked the Secret Service to provide protection to all remaining major presidential candidates.

Richmond, one of Biden’s campaign co-chairmen, said members of Congress were “very worried” about the March 3 episode, when the protesters rushed the stage at a Biden speech in California.

He isn’t the only candidate to have been accosted at a campaign event. Topless demonstrators crashed a Sanders rally in Nevada in February.




Long considered a harbinger of bad luck, Friday the 13th has inspired a late 19th-century secret society, an early 20th-century novel, a horror film franchise and not one but two unwieldy terms—paraskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia—that describe fear of this supposedly unlucky day.

The Fear of 13

Just like walking under a ladder, crossing paths with a black cat or breaking a mirror, many people hold fast to the belief that Friday the 13th brings bad luck. Though it’s uncertain exactly when this particular tradition began, negative superstitions have swirled around the number 13 for centuries.

While Western cultures have historically associated the number 12 with completeness (there are 12 days of Christmas, 12 months and zodiac signs, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus and 12 tribes of Israel, just to name a few examples), its successor 13 has a long history as a sign of bad luck.

The ancient Code of Hammurabi, for example, reportedly omitted a 13th law from its list of legal rules. Though this was probably a clerical error, superstitious people sometimes point to this as proof of 13’s longstanding negative associations.

Fear of the number 13 has even earned a psychological term: triskaidekaphobia.

Why is Friday the 13th Unlucky?

According to biblical tradition, 13 guests attended the Last Supper, held on Maundy Thursday, including Jesus and his 12 apostles (one of whom, Judas, betrayed him). The next day, of course, was Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The seating arrangement at the Last Supper is believed to have given rise to a longstanding Christian superstition that having 13 guests at a table was a bad omen—specifically, that it was courting death.

Though Friday’s negative associations are weaker, some have suggested they also have roots in Christian tradition: Just as Jesus was crucified on a Friday, Friday was also said to be the day Eve gave Adam the fateful apple from the Tree of Knowledge, as well as the day Cain killed his brother, Abel.

The Thirteen Club

In the late-19th century, a New Yorker named Captain William Fowler (1827-1897) sought to remove the enduring stigma surrounding the number 13—and particularly the unwritten rule about not having 13 guests at a dinner table—by founding an exclusive society called the Thirteen Club.

The group dined regularly on the 13th day of the month in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage, a popular watering hole Fowler owned from 1863 to 1883. Before sitting down for a 13-course dinner, members would pass beneath a ladder and a banner reading “Morituri te Salutamus,” Latin for “Those of us who are about to die salute you.”

Four former U.S. presidents (Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt) would join the Thirteen Club’s ranks at one time or another.

Friday the 13th in Pop Culture

An important milestone in the history of the Friday the 13th legend in particular (not just the number 13) occurred in 1907, with the publication of the novel Friday, the Thirteenth written by Thomas William Lawson.

The book told the story of a New York City stockbroker who plays on superstitions about the date to create chaos on Wall Street, and make a killing on the market.

The horror movie Friday the 13th, released in 1980, introduced the world to a hockey mask-wearing killer named Jason, and is perhaps the best-known example of the famous superstition in pop culture history. The movie spawned multiple sequels, as well as comic books, novellas, video games, related merchandise and countless terrifying Halloween costumes.

What bad things happened on Friday 13th?

On Friday, October 13, 1307, officers of King Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar, a powerful religious and military order formed in the 12th century for the defense of the Holy Land.

Imprisoned on charges of various illegal behaviors (but really because the king wanted access to their financial resources), many Templars were later executed. Some cite the link with the Templars as the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition, but like many legends involving the Templars and their history, the truth remains murky.

In more recent times, a number of traumatic events have occurred on Friday the 13th, including the German bombing of Buckingham Palace (September 1940); the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York (March 1964); a cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh (November 1970); the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (October 1972); the death of rapper Tupac Shakur (September 1996) and the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 30 people (January 2012).