People wait in a line to enter a gun store in Culver City. Picture: Ringo H.W. Chiu
People wait in a line to enter a gun store in Culver City. Picture: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Americans buy up guns and shelters to prepare for civil war

How time flies! It seems just yesterday we were all queuing up to buy as much loo paper as we could fit into the family car.

And hand sanitiser. Harder to get hold of than a virus-free bat in a Wuhan wet market.

Now, though, the stores here are wall to wall dunno paper and there are enough bottles of hand sanitiser to kill off COVIDs -19, -20 and -21 combined!

The deadly virus, of course, has been pushed off the front pages by the US race riots, which have certainly made Americans rethink their priorities.

According to the Dallas Morning News, those premium products couldn't be further from the minds of the citizens of a country in the throes of a purge.

Now, it's guns and bunkers that top the Father's Day wishlists from coast to coast (it's celebrated in June over here).

"The phone has been ringing off the hook," said Ron Hubbard, owner of Atlas Survival Shelters, which is headquartered an hour east of Dallas in Sulphur Springs.

Gun sales rose 80 per cent in May compared to a year ago, according to data released by Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, a consulting firm that tracks the global small arms and ammunition markets.

Mr Hubbard said people want a "plan B" if things get worse after days of intense and violent rioting and looting followed months of lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"The protests are just another reason in the pile of why people want a bunker this year," he said. "They want somewhere to hide their family in case of looters."

The average price of a bunker he sells is AUD$110,000, but they start in the $35,000 to $45,000 range.

One of the shelters sold at Atlas Survival Shelters: Picture: Supplied
One of the shelters sold at Atlas Survival Shelters: Picture: Supplied

"Why should only millionaires survive?" he asked.

Rising S Company, a Murchison-based bunker and bomb shelter manufacturer, made a sale this week to a customer motivated by protest concerns, said general manager Gary Lynch.

"They're scared of war on their own territory," he said, according to the News.

What it looks like inside a shelter. Picture: Atlas Survival Shelters
What it looks like inside a shelter. Picture: Atlas Survival Shelters

Gun sales typically go up when people are nervous about protecting themselves and more than one non-gun owner whispered during the COVID lockdown that they had thought for the first time about the merits of loading up.

B.E.A.R. Gun Shop in Corsicana, Texas has seen about five times the sales that it made in the same period last year, said owner Arlen Swartzentruber. The store is already maxed out - selling as many guns as they get in - yet they fully expect sales to increase due to the protests, he said.

"When the question marks come out about the future, gun sales go up," he said.

Swartzentruber said he's also not seeing his typical buyers. Females usually make up about 10 per cent of his market, but since the COVID-19 outbreak, they've accounted for about 40 per cent of his customers. And when shutdowns swept the country in March, over half of his customers for the month were first-time buyers.

Demand has also been strong in the US for mega-million dollar properties as the fearful-wealthy flee city centres for safer, more distant surroundings (read: gated).

Australian-born celebrity fixer and realtor Ruby Fay says coronavirus has seen a huge pick-up in her celebrity house-swapping business, with bidding wars for mega-million properties sending prices higher than ever.

The average shelter costs $110,000. Picture: Atlas Survival Shelters
The average shelter costs $110,000. Picture: Atlas Survival Shelters

"You can't go to Europe this summer. So anyone with money, where are they going to go? To Martha's Vineyard, the Hamptons, Malibu. Any amazing estate that's on the water or outside of urban cities. So my business is taking a boom because I do top end housing," she explains.

"This private jet crowd spends half a million, a million on their summer vacation. So that money's staying put in this country.

"You've got like almost a bidding war going on in Malibu and the Hamptons. It is just, you know, higher, higher, higher. I never see pricing like this. And then inevitably, the rentals will spill over to sales because we don't know where this is going. What's happening now is we're in a new world. So people are thinking: 'OK, well, I'd better buy one of these safe places because I don't want to be travelling. I'm too worried about everything'."

Originally published as Scared of civil war, Americans are buying guns and shelters



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