Frank Miniter

Why There is an Ammo Shortage

The reason for the ammunition shortage should be obvious. After all, with gun sales continuing to break records all those people buying semiautomatic rifles and handguns need a lot of ammunition. Anyone who has used a semiautomatic rifle or handgun to shoot self-resetting steel targets knows that ammo always seems to be in short supply.

Nevertheless, finding bare shelves that have always been stacked with boxes of ammo has made some wonder if the government has been up to something. It’s easy to understand this worry. As gun sales break records—partly because of fear of coming gun control from the Obama administration—supplies of ammo ran so low that gun stores and ranges have to ration ammunition. Meanwhile, rumors of mass purchases of ammunition made by government entities began to fly around the Internet. Making all this even worse is that fact that it hasn’t been a short-term supply problem. Now well over a year since the shortages of popular types of ammo began there are still empty shelves and rationing here and there around the United States.

Mix this series of events with a media that doesn’t understand the issue enough to explain it (even if they could drop their biases long enough to try), add a pinch of understandable paranoia from some gun owners and ka-boom!

Such an explosion, in fact, that many ammo makers have felt compelled to publish explanations. Also, the National Rifle Association (NRA) felt compelled by its membership to investigate and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for gun, ammo and related businesses, decided to look into the problem. There was even a congressional hearing.

At the hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs one of the House oversight subcommittees, noted that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using roughly 1,000 rounds of ammunition more per person than the U.S. Army. “It is entirely … inexplicable why the Department of Homeland Security needs so much ammunition,” said Chaffetz.

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