Pass the ammunition, cont’d

We are in the midst of a prolonged national ammunition shortage. Provoked by an AP story attributing the shortage to military demand (i.e., President Bush), Bob Owens started writing about the shortage in 2007. Owens debunked the AP story claiming the military’s consumption of ammunition was responsible for police ammunition shortages in the United States.
Owens revisited the subject in February of last year, reviewing possible causes of the current shortage. Sales of ammo are booming, making it what Glenn Reynolds calls “an economic bright spot.”
Last year ESPN took a look at booming ammo sales, including an interesting Google Trends chart in the story “The ammo boom is no dud.” The Google Trends chart supported the story’s thesis that concerns over what the election of Barack Obama (and a Democratic Congress) portended for gun owners is the main cause for the inflated demand for ammunition.
ESPN quoted the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Ted Novin: “Gun owners are worried about taxes being added to ammo, or worried about new laws that will affect the production, and consequently the price, of ammunition. It’s understandable; there are a lot of people in power now who have a long history of supporting bills that violate Second Amendment rights.”
ESPN also checked in with Jim Rausher, the co-owner of Joe’s Sporting Goods in suburban St. Paul. “A lot of my guys think that the government is going to tax ammo to the point that it gets ungodly expensive,” said Rausher. “So they’re buying ammo and putting it away — 9mm, .380, .38 Special, .40 S&W, .45 — all the popular stuff. I think they’re probably on the right track. Something is coming; something is going to happen. Whether it’s microstamping or non-lead bullets, ammo is going up in cost.”
ABC also turned to the subject last year in “Demand for ammo deplete stores’ stock.” Reporting from Atlanta, Ryan Owens and Sidney Wright IV credited the political explanation. They cited gun shop owner Jay Wallace, who attributes the shortage to the election of Barack Obama. Fear that the president will change gun laws is prompting many gun owners to store up as much ammo as they can, as fast as they can. “They are afraid they are not going to be able to get ammunition anymore,” said Wallace. “So they are buying it and stockpiling it.”
ABC’s Owens and Wright also attributed the shortage to military needs. According to them, “Years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have also depleted the supply of ammunition because suppliers are required to give the military first choice.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, ABC cited no evidence in support of this proposition. This is where we came in, with the proposition that Bob Owens debunked in 2007.
Owens now returns to the story in “The ammo shortage continues.” The most common cartridges are in short supply, and many stores ration ammunition a box or two at a time to spread their meager stock among their customers. Owens asks what’s going on
Owens quotes one knowledgeable observer inside the ammunition manufacturing business whose comments tend to belie the political explanation for the shortage. This observer notes: “The increased demand is global, not just domestic, and the demand is still increasing further. The demand for the end product, loaded ammunition, further impacts the availability of raw materials: brass, powder, primers, projectiles. Certain calibers are going to be harder to find than others by virtue of popularity and priority.” While the retail consumer may be stocking up, according to this observer, this pales in comparison to global consumption that is the real reason for the shortages.
But Owens notes that the mystery abides. We are still left with millions of rounds being manufactured domestically every day that are snapped up the moment they hit the marketplace. Are these hundreds of millions of rounds of domestically manufactured ammunition being stockpiled, Owens asks, or are they being shot as fast as they are purchased? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, Owens hasn’t found him.


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