Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What about ammunition shortages?

Blog post ideas come from all sorts of interesting conversations and articles. Last night, after a golf game with friends, a conversation ensued about the shortage of ammunition. About half of the people at the table were gun owners who hunt and shoot for recreation. Several of them belong to gun clubs where they go to target shoot for fun. Yes, I do hang out with reasonable gun owners who help to inform my views about gun violence prevention. None of them belong to the NRA. They don't like the NRA, in fact. They believe that common sense gun laws are good for public health and safety and they understand that strengthening gun laws will not affect them.

So we had a conversation about this ammunition shortage. Most of them were concerned particularly about .22 shells. Some of them had bought into the idea that the government was responsible for the shortage. I informed them that that was not true. This morning, I sent them these articles to set the record straight:

From the USA Today about the ammunition shortage:
Gun shops are running low on ammunition from a run by customers fearful of potential gun-control legislation, according to gun retailers and customers.
Prices have more than doubled over past year in some shops, retailers are putting limits on the amount a customer can buy, and some common types of ammunition, such as .22-caliber long rifle shells, are hard to get.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents ammunition makers, retailers, hunters and sport shooters, attributes what it calls "spot shortages" around the country to rising popularity of sport-shooting and hunting, and to people who are "keeping firearms for personal and home defense."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December reported recently that hunting license sales were up 9% from 2006 to 2011, reversing a 25-year decline. Michael Hampton, Jr., executive director of the National Skeet Shooting Association and the National Sporting Clays Association, says participation in those sports, which includes up to 4 million participants in each sport, is growing 3-5% annually.
But retailers say much of the demand is from gun owners who are stockpiling in case certain weapons are banned, who believe that economic chaos may be coming, or who are driven by rumors of inevitable background checks or rising taxes on ammunition. Gun sellers and owners say a run on ammunition began shortly after President Obama was re-elected, and has intensified in the gun-violence debate since the December mass killing of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn.
"We absolutely are in uncharted territory," said Larry Hyatt, of the family-owned Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C.. "Our store is 53 years old, and we have never seen anything like this. We have had some spot shortages and busy gun times in the past. This is a level (of demand) never before seen."
He adds: "The political turmoil is intensifying it. People feel like this administration is very anti-gun, and they are going for the legal gun owner." Among the rumors he hears, he says, are that taxes on ammunition are going up and that background checks for ammunition purchases are coming.
"Whether true or not, this information is out there, and people are getting it while they can," Hyatt says.
He is limiting sales of .22-caliber to one box, and is running low on everything from holsters to cleaning brushes. (...) 
The run on ammunition comes amid Internet discussion about recent purchases of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration.
Homeland Security solicited bids for up to 1.1 billion rounds of ammunition for over the next five years, but agency spokesman Marsha Catron says purchases may not run that high, and that most of it would go to required training for about 130,000 armed federal agents in various agencies. The DHS ammunition purchases have been steady since 2009.
Last year, after the Social Security Administration solicited bids for 174,000 rounds of .357 ammunition, the agency got so many questions from the public about why it needed that powerful of a bullet that its inspector general's office put out a statement explaining why.
The Social Security Administration has 295 armed agents that protect offices around the country, and that ammunition is standard issue for the arms they carry on the job, the agency said.
"Our special agents need to be armed and trained appropriately," read the Social Security statement. "They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees and customers."
Bid winner for the Homeland Security ammunition was ATK Armament Systems, a division of Alliant Technosystems Inc., and a major supplier of guns and ammunition for the military.
According to a IBISWorld, a market analyst, ATK Armament is expected to post a 10% increase in revenue, to $1.7 billion, in 2013.
"While most Americans have cut back on their purchases of cars, clothing and other luxuries … gun enthusiasts are working themselves into a frenzy over what another four years under the Obama administration may hold for gun laws,'' IBISWorld reported in October. "As a result, they are purchasing firearms and ammunition at record rates.''
Greg Pacholczyk, who shoots everything from pistols to the AR-15 that the Obama administration wants to ban, says he is not in a frenzy, but that if he is in a store that carries ammunition, he looks to buy. The Marriottsville, Md., resident says AR-15 semi-automatic rifles are very hard to find for purchase, and that ammunition for it is hard to find, too.
Other stories confirm that most of the problem is because of gun owners who are stockpiling ammunition in case of the passage of stricter gun laws and/or fear that the government is coming for their guns. Here is another article about the topic of ammunition shortage from National Public Radio: 
Sales of guns and ammunition rose after President Obama took office in 2008, and they went through the roof starting late last year, when a school shooting led to a push for new gun control measures. That's led to a prolonged ammunition shortage, even with manufacturers running at full capacity.
A gun owner in Florida told me he has had a hard time finding .380 ammo for a small handgun for the past six months. Customers at Bob's Little Sport Shop in southern New Jersey told me it's hard to find ammo for some rifles and for the popular 9 mm. Even .22 rounds, the small ones, have been hard to come by.
An economics textbook would say this shouldn't happen. It would say that Bob Viden, who has run the shop for almost 50 years, should respond to the increase in demand by raising prices. And some stores and online sellers have done just that. But, Viden told me, "We don't want to do that. We want to be fair."
Apparently so do some of the best-known ammo sources across the country. At the sporting goods store Cabela's and at Wal-Mart, shelves are empty but prices are mostly flat. During my conversations at Bob's Little Sport Shop, the word "fair" came up about two-dozen times. Or, as one customer put it, "There's no reason to make a profit off of our misfortune."
To a traditional economist, a shortage is evidence prices are too low. But Viden predicts if he raises his prices, his customers won't come back because they'll think he ripped them off.
"Traditional economic theory doesn't really have room for fairness perceptions," Margaret Campbell, a marketing professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told me. But about 30 years ago, she says, "people started noticing that there were these kind of quirks."
At the end of this article, there was an update pointing out that in some places the price of ammunition had gone up. This was confirmed by my friends during our discussion. And yet one more article from the Tampa Bay Times: 
For gun enthusiasts here and across the country, the shortage is the worst they've ever seen. Faced with near-empty shelves, many stores have set limits on the number of rounds people can buy at one time. Instead of getting shipments of cases of ammunition, stores get boxes.
In the case of Dick's, a sign at the gun counter limits customers to three boxes of rifle and pistol ammo and one box of bulk packs of 150 rounds or more. In February, the limit was 200.
The shortage isn't just limited to retail stores. Law enforcement agencies nationwide are feeling the squeeze, including the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, which canceled an ammo order because of repeated delays. Just a few weeks ago, the police chief of Proctor, Minn., had to ask citizens to lend his agency their personal supplies until the order for training ammo came in.
How is a prolonged shortage possible in the land of plenty? Reasons range from simple economics of supply and demand to a government conspiracy fueled by President Barack Obama's antigun agenda. But not even the National Rifle Association buys that one. (...) 
Also factoring into the shortage are plans by the Department of Homeland Security to buy a more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition in the next four or five years, a huge amount even by government standards. About 750,000 rounds would be for its training centers, which offer firearms training to tens of thousands of federal law enforcement officers. The rest would go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the second-largest federal criminal investigative agency.
Stored properly, the stash could last for years. (Ammo, if kept dry, generally doesn't expire.) Still, that's a lot of ammo. On average, the typical law enforcement officer carries 45 rounds while on duty and uses a few hundred rounds during training exercises.
Fierce fans of the Second Amendment wonder if the government's sudden need to buy so much ammunition is really a backhanded way to force gun control. If people can't buy bullets, they won't be able to shoot guns.
Ammunition makers aren't so sure. Federal Premium Ammunition, a large manufacturer in Minnesota, said Homeland Security's contract makes up a very small percentage of its total output and any talk about the federal government restricting availability is "false" and "baseless."
"This contract is not taking ammunition away from civilians," states a message on its website. "The current increase in demand is attributed to the civilian market."
The NRA agrees the shortage isn't government-induced. It backs the position of the National Shooting Sports Foundation that manufacturers simply can't keep up with consumer demand. Factories are working around the clock but don't have enough tooling, infrastructure or raw materials. Building more ammomaking machines takes time.
So what is this all about? Even the NRA doesn't agree with the idea that the government is creating this ammunition shortage. It's consumer demand. It's a totally irrational hatred of President Obama and anything that he might propose to stop senseless shootings. It's fear of "the other" and fear of some ideological world view that hypes up the paranoia:
Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon says the NRA is to blame, and he’s not far from the truth.  Alex notes two particular peaks in gun and ammo sales.  First, after Obama’s election in 2008 (there was also a run on bullets in 2009 as, for whatever reason, gun nuts again feared massive imminent gun control), and second, after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre this past December.
The NRA is in the business of selling guns, figuratively and literally, to the American people.  They’ve got a vested interest in keeping their paranoid membership, well, paranoid.  Paranoia helps keep membership up, and helps fuel gun and ammo sales.  And what’s good for Big Gun is good for the NRA.
It’s why the NRA has been warning gun nuts of a coming Zombie Apocalypse for a while now.  Here’s NRA chief Wayne LaPierre in a recent op ed, explaining why private citizens need to stockpile guns and ammo:
"Meanwhile, President Obama is leading this country to financial ruin, borrowing over a trillion dollars a year for phony “stimulus” spending and other payoffs for his political cronies. Nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection. And the American people know it.
Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face—not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival. It’s responsible behavior, and it’s time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that."
 Go figure.

Hunting is a big sport in my neck of the woods as is shooting at ranges for target practice and for sport. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. What is wrong is that people are stockpiling ammunition over fear of the government coming for their guns and ammunition and then actually causing the shortage for the government agencies and law enforcement who need their ammunition for public safety. From this story:
In Proctor, Minnesota, Chief Walt Wobig found his department's ammunition supply low enough to ask the citizens in his city to help. And they did. At least one civilian donated 15 hundred bullets.
"I've had several other citizens call and say they have plenty of ammo if I need," he says.
Military needs and the fear of strict gun legislations play a role in the shortage. It means police officials must strategize and think ahead in order to properly train their personnel.
"At least one civilian donated 15 hundred bullets"? Good grief.

In addition, these folks are causing shortages for their own gun owning cohorts for hunting and sport shooting purposes. In the circular and specious reasoning common in the world of gun rights extremists, the rumor is then spread about the government being responsible for the shortage. This instills fear and paranoia and then causes more rushes on ammunition.

And then there are the economics. One of the articles highlighted the fact that some gun shops hadn't raised the price for ammunition out of fear of losing customers. There were comments made in one of the articles from a gun extremist who thought that that is exactly what President Obama and those in favor of reducing gun violence wanted- higher prices for ammunition to decrease sales. If there is no ammunition, of course, how can a gun be fired? In truth, that actually just might prevent and reduce the gun violence that devastates our communities. Perhaps we should go back to the scene in Bowling for Columbine showing comedian Chris Rock in a comedy routine about the cost of bullets:

Could it work? $5000 for one bullet? Would that stop the senseless shootings? It is certainly food for thought and gets to the point about the daily carnage from bullets in America. In fact, James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter bought thousands of rounds of drum magazines ( high capacity) from on-line sources with no background check. This was not only a dangerous thing, it was very expensive. If the article above is right, the cost of one of these drum magazines is $335.00. If we look at this through the eyes of Chris Rock from the video above, that means that the shooting of 82 people, 12 of whom died last July, the price per person was pretty steep. Gun violence is expensive. Holmes was mentally ill. Should purchases of large amounts of ammunition- over 1000 rounds as suggested by some- be subject to background checks? Why not? Anyone who is buying that much ammunition is clearly not just a casual hunter or sport shooter. Would it be the end of the world is a law abiding gun owner who has nothing to hide had to undergo a background check for this much ammunition? If so, we need to hear why and we need to have a rational discussion about ammunition along with the guns that use ammunition. For it is actually the bullet that kills or injures.

Bullets kill and injure too many people every day. In most mass shootings, the shooters have multiple rounds of high capacity magazines. They know what they want. They want to kill as many people as possible in a short time. There is every reason to be concerned about the stock piling of ammunition. There should be good reason to be suspicious of purchases of many thousands of rounds of high capacity magazines. And there is every reason to know the truth about this problem. Reasonable gun owners just want to be able to buy bullets and shells for hunting and target practice. Most are not interested in stock piling.

We have a lot of work to do and lot of talking to do about our serious public health and safety epidemic in America. My friends are willing to discuss this in a rational way but they don't have all the information either and so rumors get spread amongst law abiding and reasonable gun owners. Let's get to work on this issue and then decide how we can solve it in a reasonable way. Lives depend on it.


This blog post(Pro-Gun Conspiracy Theories) was sent to me by a friend. It pretty much says it all about what the ammunition shortage is all about:
Now, in a sad derivative of that original conspiracy theory, at least four GOP lawmakers,  Sen. James Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas, from Oklahoma, Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California, and Rep Jim Jordan of Ohio, are suggesting that President Obama and various departments are stockpiling ammo again.  But instead of wanting to wage war on gun owners, now they want to do it to drive up ammo costs and keep gun owners from buying the ammo, and have gone so far in their lunacy to introduce a bill against the supposed practice.

You just can't make this stuff up.


  1. Fear and paranoia are at work, stoked by the NRA and other gun lobby groups. And the people hurt most are the gun owners themselves, who need ammo for hunting or target shooting, and law enforcement (and if they can't get ammo, that means the public is at risk).

    Let's not forget the wacko pro-gun conspiracists out there, too, who blame the government and think the government is doing it to "wage war on gun owners." See these two posts:



    No, it's not the government. It's paranoid gun owners buying up the stock, and it's the ammo manufacturers, too, who are keeping production down to drive up demand and take advantage of all that paranoia.

  2. japete writes: "Anyone who is buying that much ammunition is clearly not just a casual hunter or sport shooter."

    Hobbyists that shoot in competitive leagues order ammunition by the pallet - i.e. tens of thousands of rounds.

    I shoot 500 - 750 rounds or more during a range trip. That's not at all unusual.

    1. Not everyone has good intentions with all of that ammo. That was my point, of course. It may not be unusual to you but you are in the minority of people who believe this.

  3. I can easily go through about four hundred rounds in just three or four hours of focused practice with my pistol at the range. I, and many others like me, buy thousands of cartridges at a time, all the time, because it's always cheaper to buy in bulk.