Business has been booming at Black Gold Guns & Ammo, where sales increased by about 800 percent earlier this month.
But Gordon Taylor, who owns the local firearms store at 2001 Karbach St. Suite F, isn’t shooting at the sky in celebration. He said most of his handgun and ammunition stock has been depleted since the “fear-buying” started March 13, and the warehouses that supply with him with products don’t have any more to send his way.
“It’s been rocking,” Taylor said of the recent spike in sales. “But next week, when I have no inventory, then what?”
Much like people have flocked to grocery stores to stock up on food, water, hand soap and toilet paper amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – which has prompted much of Houston to stay home and away from crowds – Taylor said they also have been rushing to shops like his to stockpile weapons and ammunition. Taylor said the outbreak’s negative impact on the economy could lead to desperation and an increase in crime, so some citizens are bracing for the worst and making sure they can protect themselves.
A spokesperson for Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said his officers have seen “no uptick in crime and don’t expect any.”
“We are prepared, as always, to respond as necessary to protect our communities,” the spokesperson added.
It is unclear how Tuesday’s stay-at-home, work safe order by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will impact businesses such as Black Gold. Taylor said he isn’t sure if his business qualifies as essential, per the order, but he plans to stay open because he regularly sells guns and ammo to law enforcement officers and first responders, who can continue working during the order that expires April 3.
“If they came out and told me I had to close, I’ll close,” Taylor said. “But supplies for police and first responders, I think they need to keep that place open. Worst-case scenario, I will go to appointment only. I’m not going to leave it where I can’t fill their needs.”
Taylor has a lower supply than usual, though, saying he is nearly out of handguns and ammunition for those weapons. All 60 boxes of 9-millimeter bullets he received on March 16 were sold by the end of the following day.
Federal background checks required for gun purchases usually take a few minutes, Taylor said. But because of a backlog in the online system, Taylor said they’ve been taking a few hours.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s craziness.”
Taylor said semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15 haven’t been selling as frequently, so he still has a good number of those in stock. He said those kinds of guns were big sellers in the aftermath of the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012.
The recent gun-buying frenzy is comparable to that, Taylor said, and could lead to a similar spike in ammunition prices. But Taylor said he does not intend to increase his prices or engage in price-gauging.
Taylor said he’s reserving one box of ammunition per corresponding gun. That way, someone who purchases one of his remaining guns can have some bullets for it as well.
“It’s down to that point,” he said. “I can’t just sell ammo, because then I can’t sell guns. It would be like going and buying a car that you can’t get a tank of gas for.”