Shortage of small arms ammo continues

By EVAN REID

Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – A shortage of small arms ammunition, fueled by consumer demand, continues to affect businesses nationwide, including area retailers.

The shortage has had a severe impact on the supply of .22-caliber shells. One of the most popular and common types of ammunition, it has become much harder to find over the past several years.

Rocconi’s Ace Hardware in Iron Mountain has been dealing with the shortage for about a year.

“We’ve been affected terribly,” said owner Tracy Rocconi. “None of our suppliers have the ammunition.”

Rocconi said when her store does receive shipments of .22 ammunition, “it flies off the shelf right away.”

She also mentioned that price gouging has become an issue as a result of the shortage.

When they are in stock, Rocconi’s Ace Hardware sells .22 shells at the standard price, though Rocconi noted that the standard price has gone up.

John Grier of the Whispering Pines Outpost in Breitung Township has also felt the effects of the shortage over the past year.

The last time the Outpost received .22 ammunition was about two-and-a-half months ago, Grier said, when a small shipment arrived.

He said the shortage has affected the supply of not only .22 ammunition, but .243-, .30-06-, .308-, and .357-caliber shells as well.

Grier said he had heard that firearm sales are on the rise, and that people are holding on to any ammunition they can get. He wondered how it was possible that such a large amount of ammunition was being hoarded.

“We talked to people across the country, and I guess it’s a problem all over,” he said.

This appears to be the case. The Associated Press reported in May that the shortage has begun affecting subsistence hunters in rural Alaska. Hunters in that area face limited supplies of .22-, .300-, .303, and .243-caliber shells as they attempt to harvest marine mammals and migratory birds.

Some firearm enthusiasts have speculated that the shortage is related to large government purchases, possibly in an attempt to limit the public’s access to ammunition and enact gun control.

However, the amount of ammunition purchased in bulk by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has actually decreased recently, from over 148 million rounds purchased in 2010 to around 84 million in 2013.

This information was released following a request from U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who asked the DHS for a breakdown of how much money is spent on ammunition per agency, and how much it uses annually.

The DHS includes more than 70,000 law-enforcement personnel across multiple agencies and 40,000 uniformed members of the military and U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in January that the annual ammunition purchases made by the DHS are comparable to those made by the Department of Justice.

American Rifleman, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association, has offered a more mundane explanation for the shortage: increased demand from the civilian market.

According to American Rifleman, the U.S. Department of Interior reported that excise taxes on ammunition generated $68 million in 2000, whereas that figure was $207 million in 2012. Between 2007 and 2012, excise tax money generated from ammunition sales almost doubled from $108 to $207 million.

In an article published in 2013, American Rifleman highlighted some difficulties facing ammunition manufacturers as they attempt to bring supply up to meet demand.

These include the rising cost of raw materials in a globalized and competitive marketplace; worry from manufacturers about over-investment in a market bubble; and costs of increasing production with expensive machinery upgrades and additional personnel.

The ongoing national debate over firearms restrictions, and the perceived likelihood of new gun control laws passed as a response to public shooting incidents, may have contributed to the rising demand for ammunition.

According to The Associated Press, there was a run on ammunition after the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 12, 2012.

This continued a trend which began in 2008, when both firearms and ammunition sales began to rise following the election of President Barack Obama.

How long the shortage will continue may be difficult to determine, but those who do have a supply of ammunition do not need to worry much about its shelf life.

Grier said most shells are safe to use for years after they are purchased, though they do need to be stored somewhere cool and dry.

Evan Reid’s e-mail address is ereid@ironmountaindailynews.com.