Hunters anxious while ammo supply shrinks

Springfield — Like many hunters in the state, Alan Decker’s annual spring ritual includes re-stocking his gun cabinet’s supply of .22 shells.

An avid rabbit and squirrel chaser, the Monroe County man usually picks up three cases while he renews his hunting and fishing license in late March.

But this year he came away empty handed.

“Nobody had any .22s on the shelves, and I went to three different shops,” Decker said. “Between hunting and target practice, I go through about three cases. I guess I’m going to have to stop practicing. Everybody I talk to says, ‘where’s all the ammo going?’”

Illinois hunters and shooters are not alone in the challenge to re-fill their supply of .22, .223 and other rounds. Gun owners are actually facing a double-whammy here. There is a backlog “tens of thousands” deep of people trying to acquire or renew their Firearms Owner Identification cards. Illinois residents are required to have a FOID card to purchase ammunition or guns.

The Illinois State Police, which manages and issues FOID cards, reported that it received nearly 29,000 applications for FOID cards during the month of April. After a March crunch, the ISP was facing a backlog of more than 75,000 applications.

Lt. Darrin Clark of the ISP told the Associated Press that the state’s FOID staff is “dealing with a flood of applications” and is short on help. He says that makes it difficult to meet deadlines.

State law requires the ISP to approve or deny FOID applications within 30 days. However, many applicants have been waiting more than 60 days for their cards. Some have been waiting more than 90 days.

Officials from the National Rifle Association had entertained the idea of filing a lawsuit against the state over the FOID backlog. Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the NRA, told the AP that legal discussions are ongoing.

Meanwhile, gun owners continue to be frustrated.

“Just because of all the controversy going around these days, I thought that at the beginning of the year that I’d at least get this FOID card and have it in my hand,” Claus Bacher, of New Berlin, told the AP. Bacher had applied for his FOID in January.

As for ammunition shortages, the results have been a lesson in supply and demand. As the state’s hunters and shooters struggle to re-stock, some are taking advantage of the situation by selling their own stash of ammunition. An example recently cited involves online auction sites that advertise a bulk canister of Remington .22 long -rifle rounds for more than $225. Such a purchase would normally retail for about $60-70 in Illinois.

Manufacturers have noted that they are running full steam to produce more ammunition. But demand is outstripping supply. On Remington’s website, its official line is:

“Remington is at full capacity at this time in a majority of categories of ammunition. We are continuing to look at how to increase capacity and supply our ammunition products to the various channels of distribution/sales that we support.”

What is causing the apparent shortage? Among the reasons given my those who follow the crazed ammunition market:

  • Rumors that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has purchased more than 1.6 billon rounds.
  • The possibility that concealed carry might pass in Illinois. The thinking is that if more people practice concealed carry there will be a need for more shooting practice and thus a need for more ammunition.
  • Panic. Many believe people are scooping up as much ammunition as they can find, motivated by the fear that they may not have access to it in the future.

For Decker and other hunters who are merely trying to round up enough rounds to get through this fall’s rabbit and squirrel seasons, the situation is getting dire.
“I guess I might be hunting this year with a slingshot and pocket of rocks,” Decker said with a laugh.

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