Fear of new regs drives gun, ammo shortage

Cheyenne, Wyo. (AP) – Concern that the Obama administration
could impose a new ban on some semiautomatic weapons is driving
worried gun owners to stockpile ammunition and cartridge reloading
components at such a rate that manufacturers can’t meet demand.

Attorney General Eric Holder last month suggested that the Obama
Administration favors reinstituting a U.S. ban on the sale of
assault weapons. President Bill Clinton first signed such a ban
into law in 1994, generally blocking some military-style guns with
magazines that hold many cartridges. President George Bush had
allowed the ban to expire.

“We have heard from all across the country that there is a
tremendous shortage of ammunition,” said Lawrence Keane, senior
vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “We’ve
heard this from the manufacturers, that their customers are calling
them trying to get supplies for inventory, and that the
manufacturers are going full-bore, pardon the pun.”

The Newtown, Conn.-based foundation is a trade organization
representing firearms and ammunition manufacturers as well as
retail gun shops.

“Semiautomatic rifles are selling at an incredibly brisk
pace,”said Keane, adding that many manufacturers of semiautomatic
rifles and pistols are already so backordered that this year’s
entire production is already spoken for.

He said the current ammunition shortage followed the increase in
gun sales. While the current shortage includes cartridges for
popular semiautomatic rifles and pistols that were covered by the
Clinton-era weapons ban, it also extends to other common varieties
including common revolver cartridges and .22 rimfire cartridges
used for hunting or target shooting.

In Wyoming, the run on bullets and reloading components reached
such a frenzy that Cheyenne retailer Frontier Arms recently began
rationing sales, said Becky Holtz, co-owner of the shop. Holtz said
she’s also been selling semiautomatic rifles as fast as she can put
them on the shelves.

“You know there’s something wrong when I’ve got little old
ladies coming in buying 5,000 rounds of .22 shells,” Holtz
said.

Jere Jordan is general manager Midsouth Shooters Supply in
Clarksville, Tenn. – one of a handful of firms in the country that
specializes in mail-order sales of ammunition and reloading
components and equipment.

In common with similar supply houses, Midsouth has run out of
most ammunition in the calibers commonly used in semiautomatic
pistols and popular military rifles. It’s also backordered on many
other types of cartridges.

“After the election, where you have a change of parties to a
more liberal side, I would say I guess the conservatives want to
protect what they feel might be taken away from them, either
through a tax, or an all-out ban,” Jordan said.

Midsouth and other similar dealers say they’re also sold out of
most varieties of primers used by hobbyists to handload cartridges.
Primers are the explosive caps that ignite gunpowder in rifle and
pistol cartridges.

Jordan said his company is taking orders for bullets and
primers, but isn’t sure when they’ll be filled.

“The wait? We’re not even guessing on the wait anymore,” Jordan
said. “It’s exceeding 60 days.”

Keane, of the Shooting Sports Foundation, said there are no
national statistics that directly track firearms sales. However, he
noted that there’s been a sharp rise in the number of instant
background checks that the FBI performs each time a person buys a
gun at a gun store. Such checks are not required for personal
sales, or for gun purchases at gun shows.

The FBI performed more than 4.2 million firearms background
checks from November 2008 through this January, according to agency
figures. That’s an increase of more than 31 percent above the 3.2
million checks the agency performed from November 2007 through
January 2008.

Keane said concerns other than the prospect of new federal
regulations are also driving gun and ammunition sales. Those
include the faltering economy and the potential side-effect of an
increase in crime, he said.

“There’s a concern about what’s happening to the stock market,
what’s happening with unemployment, what’s happening with the
tremendous increase in government spending, whether there will be
hyperinflation,” Keane said.

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