First-time gun owners, women and Californians are driving high gun sales in Austin and Texas, according to local gun shop owners.
Gun sales are almost as high as last year, when they spiked, driven by lockdowns, mass protests, police reform and the presidential election.
FBI background checks, which serve as a proxy for gun sales, increased 56% between 2019 and 2020 in Texas. There were 915,296 background checks in Texas between January and May, which is about on par with the number during the same period in 2020 and about one-third more than during the same period in 2019.
"We've been busy," General Manager of McBride's Guns on North Lamar Joe McBride said before jumping off the phone to attend to his store. A Girl and A Gun, a women's shooting league based in Cedar Park, has also seen steady demand for memberships, Executive Director Robyn Sandoval wrote in an email to Austonia. The league welcomed 701 new members, a record-high, in March and 429 last month.
Behind the sales
Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works in South Austin, said demand started to level off in March and April after a crazy 2020. "Lines out the door," he said. "We had about 10,000 students cross our doors to take a class."
Although demand isn't quite as high as it was at its peak last year, it remains strong and is accompanied by better supply now that certain pandemic-related supply chains have been resolved, Cargill said. He declined to share more specific numbers.
First-time gun owners are driving this demand in Austin and around the country. A survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm trade association and lobbying group, found that first-time gun buyers made up around 40% of customers between January and April 2020.
Cargill has noticed this at Central Texas Gun Works. Another new customer base? California transplants. "New residents are coming in with paper licenses, fresh in from California," he said.
Women are also a driving force, buying guns at unprecedented rates. The same NSSF survey found that women made up around 40% of first-time gun buyers between January and April 2020. A Girl and A Gun surveyed more than 6,000 members last summer and found that personal protection was the primary reason women were not only purchasing guns but also seeking out training for how to use them.
Cargill listed a series of events that could send gun sales shooting up even further. When a 20-hour manhunt ensued for a former Travis County sheriff's deputy that shot and killed three people in mid-April, it may have sent Austinites to gun stores. "Whenever they see something like that on the news, people tend to go to stores and say, 'Hey, I need to think about protecting my family,'" Cargill said.
Rising violent crime may have a similar effect. There have been 33 homicides in Austin so far this year, nearly double the number that had occurred by this time last year and closer to triple the number in 2019.
There's also legislation. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will likely sign a bill allowing permitless carry, although Cargill doesn't anticipate this will impact gun sales. But federal gun control measures would, he said. After a mass shooting in San Jose, California, last month—the 244th in the U.S. this year—President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
"When you get gun rights, that doesn't drive sales," Cargill said. "When you lose gun rights, that drives sales."
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Officials are asking certain residents in Bastrop State Park to evacuate as crews work to put out a “very active fire” that is currently 0% contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to help local fire departments with the Rolling Pines Fire at 100 Park Road 1A, which is consuming 300 acres. Residents of Pine Hill Drive, Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane are being asked to evacuate.
Today’s Bastrop Rolling Pines Fire is burning along Power Plant Road towards Lake Bastrop South Shore. pic.twitter.com/YCvJkIAg1u
— BastropCntyTexas OEM (@BastropCntyOEM) January 18, 2022
Aviation resources have been called to assist.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the wildfire sparked during a prescribed burn that took place today, despite wildfire warnings. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A had been closed for the prescribed burn.
The blaze is in the same location as the Bastrop Complex Fire of 2011, which burned for 55 days, killing two people, destroying 34,000 acres and around 1,700 homes and buildings. The fire, which started in 2011, became the most destructive wildfire in Texas at the time.
A hotbed for fires, the Hidden Pines Fire started at the same location in 2015, destroying 4,600 acres and 64 structures.
Some road closures have been put in place at State Highway 21 South Shore Lake Bastrop and East State Highway 21.
This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.
After months of record-setting periods for Austin real estate, the Austin Board of Realtors announced Tuesday that the metro's housing market accounted for over $23 billion of economic activity in 2021, making it the biggest year yet for both home sales and median home prices in the metro.
The Austin-Round Rock MSA saw 41,316 homes sold in 2021, 2.5% more than a record-setting 2020. Median home prices skyrocketed as well, rising 30.8% from 2020 to $450,000. The housing market also saw unprecedented impact on Austin's economy, with sales dollar volume jumping to over $23.38 billion, and more homes hit the market in 2021 than any previous year, increasing by 5.9% to 46,449 total homes listed.
(Austin Board of Realtors)
As many recent Austin homebuyers have experienced firsthand, Austin Board of Realtors 2022 President Cord Shiflet said 2021 was the most "exciting, complicated, fast-paced and record-setting housing market" in Austin's history.
Shiflet dubbed the market as "complicated" for a reason—Austin became a case study on supply and demand in 2021, with demand far outpacing the number of active listings, which dropped by 48.2% to 2,348 homes in 2021.
The metro ended the year with 0.6 months of inventory, a far cry from a "healthy" six-month supply, and houses were snatched at breakneck speeds, spending 25 fewer days on the market when compared to 2020. The average home was on the market for 20 days.
But low inventory is more due to high demand than a stagnant homebuilding market, Mark Sprague, Independence Title's state director of information capital, said in the report.
“In 2021, the record number of homes sold were demand-driven transactions and that demand was influenced greatly by companies continuing to target the region for job creation and expansion," Sprague said. "Even though more homes are being built, listed and sold than ever before, our region is still nowhere close to having a comfortable amount of supply to meet the demand, which is why home prices continue to rise steadily.”
Over 23,000 jobs have been promised by companies across the metro as of December 2021, breaking the 2020 record, according to Opportunity Austin, the economic development arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. With an influx of major factories and offices, including Tesla's Giga Texas, Samsung's Taylor plant and a planned 33-floor Facebook office, Sprague said the region's booming market paired with a struggling inventory and supply chain issues could be a double-edged sword in 2022.
"In short, 2022 will see a robust market for home sales and property values, but the region must do more to address inventory, ” Sprague said.
Shiflet recommended that potential homebuyers make a decision ahead of predicted increases in interest rates and home prices and said that he hopes local politicians will continue to prioritize affordable housing in the election year.
Still, Shiflet said a record-breaking housing market reflects Austin's growing reputation as a hub for talent, tech jobs and a good quality of life.
"With all the new jobs across the region from exciting companies like Tesla and Samsung, Austin was put on the world’s stage and captured the hearts and attention of so many," Shiflet said. "We are lucky to call Austin our home when it has so much to offer from a great quality of life to a wonderful destination for innovation and opportunity.”
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