Guns and ammo aren’t the only things flying off the shelves these days. Rumors are flying too.
Shooting enthusiasts edgy about proposed firearm restrictions are latching on to any potential evidence that seems to confirm fears of a government takeover of firearms, and they’re posting it on social media.
Two of the most widespread rumors are:
A federal agency is buying up huge quantities of ammunition to drive up demand, supporting federal calls for controls.
The shortage is being driven at least partly by people goaded by anarchy extremist fears, who are hoarding supplies to sell, barter or defend themselves.
Like all good rumors, there’s a kernel of truth in both.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been buying hundreds of million of rounds of ammunition in various calibers during the past few months. But the federal explanation is relatively straightforward: The ammunition supplies practice rounds for any number of military and enforcement agencies, as well as other law enforcement officers who work with them. Purchases routinely are made in bulk to save money.
A lot of the purchases, it turns out, are multiple-year orders. And common sense tells you that the hundreds of million of rounds bought are still a small fraction of what is now upwards of 10 billion rounds of ammunition manufactured in the country each year.
“We’re not hoarding ammunition,” said Earl Woodham with a wry chuckle upon hearing the rumor. Woodham is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives public information officer for the Carolinas. “That’s a rumor you can run down and put to bed.”
Meanwhile, people who adopt a “survivalist” lifestyle do routinely hoard supplies and there has been a surge of interest. But that’s only a small part of the demand.
The rumors follow a sustained run on guns and ammunition that has been emptying store shelves amid concern about proposed firearm restrictions in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Runs normally follow news of proposed restrictions but the intensity of this one has surprised even dealers.
And the firearm market is closely watched for money-making opportunities.
“Right now we are seeing a little bit of everything,” said Robert Richardson, who runs Off The Grid Survival, a web resource for survivalist information and supplies. “We are seeing a lot of panic buying, which is also leading to people who are buying as much ammunition as they can get so that they can sell it at a huge profit margin. I think people are really starting to panic, ammo that was once easy to come by is now almost impossible to find throughout the entire country. Even the big box stores are having a hard time finding and keeping supplies.”
Supplies are so short even law enforcement is working a little harder to assure enough firepower. Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office is pre-ordering ammunition, said Maj. John Garrison. The shortage “has had an effect on us at this point, but not a profound effect.”
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.