MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. -- Hand sanitizer and toilet paper aren’t the only things being hoarded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Firearm and ammunition sales in the Lower Mainland have skyrocketed.

"I have never seen it this busy," Craig Jones told CTV. Jones is the owner of Wanstalls, a firearm store in Maple Ridge. "I would say our sales have doubled in the last few weeks," he added.

Some of the gun racks in his store are now empty. And while the store is not open, online sales are soaring.

Meanwhile, Dave Kunstler, the owner of High Caliber Service in Mission, said until he had to close his storefront operation, his sales had also seen a significant increase.

"I don’t even know what I can get now as far as product to restock," he said.

The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA) said that a survey of retailers across the country found that sales of ammunition and guns are up more than 200 per cent between January and the end of March this year compared to the same period last year.

Retailers say there are several reasons for the boom in business and that they are linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

"People worry they won’t be able to get hunting ammunition and hunting firearms and they want sustenance for their family in case they can’t get food," said Kunstler.

The CSAAA said roughly 90 per cent of guns and ammunition are imported, mostly from the U.S., where gun and ammunition sales have surged as COVID-19 spreads.

"They know when there’s a shortage in the United States, it’s not long before there’s a shortage in Canada," said Jones who is a board member with the CSAAA.

"People have been panic buying in the U.S. which cuts our resources so we can’t get the product up here," said Kunstler.

Retailers also point to worry over higher prices because of a weak Canadian dollar.

But the jump in firearms sales is raising alarm bells with an organization called Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns.

In a statement to CTV, the group said, in part, that "Particularly during a time of increased anxiety and uncertainty, the increased availability of guns is an added public health risk... Guns are of no use in a pandemic."

The organization said the federal government should prohibit the sale of new assault weapons and handguns immediately.

Craig Jones said anyone who doesn’t already have a licence won’t be able to legally purchase a gun. Mandatory training courses have been shut down due to the pandemic and the RCMP has put a hold on processing firearms licensing applications.