With gun control legislation being discussed, some gun owners feel their hobby is under attack.
But it seems business, rather than legislation, is limiting shooting.
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, gun control debates — especially banning certain guns or high capacity magazines — have arisen. In response to proposed bans, gun enthusiasts have begun buying ammunition in bulk, resulting in a shortage.
“This is my 27th year here, and I have not seen the demand for ammo like it is right now,” said Franklin’s Guns vice president Mark Franklin.
Franklin said another reason for the shortage is the slowdown of bullet production in the last quarter of the year. Since the demand spiked in December, it hit during low-production season.
“The companies that produce ammunition are old U.S. manufacturing...You know, they’ve been building ammo the same way for a hundred years, and a lot of the times they just don’t build ammo in the last quarter of the year because they’re getting ready for the new year and releasing a new product,” Franklin said. “They’re all shutting down, and these are heavy manufacturing jobs. I promise you, General Motors is not turning out new Suburbans a week before Christmas. Same thing with ammo companies — same type of industrial manufacturing complex.”
Franklin said ammunition manufactures fail to meet the average consumer demand each year. The fear of gun bans increases not only regular buyers, but also those that have been considering making a purchase.
“That aside, on a good year, the gun industry supplies about 80 to 85 percent of the ammunition that the market needs,” he said. “So, it never has enough to begin with. But then say there’s a spike in demand, all of a sudden the average consumer who’d buy one or two boxes is buying 10 boxes. That’s a five-fold increase to a market that’s already 20 percent shy. Then you introduce a whole lot of new customers who say, ‘Well you know what, I’m concerned the government’s going to legislate then gun I want out of existence, maybe I ought to go get it now and get some ammo to go along with it, and stockpile it for the future.’”
Franklin said ammunition manufacturers have gone from supplying around 80 percent of ammo to about 11 percent and that the rounds have been the most heavily affected are 0.22 Long Rifle, 0.223 Remington, 0.308 Winchester, 9mm and 0.45 ACP.
Aside from manufacturing, politics has played a big role in bullet shortages. Though this is the largest recent bullet shortage, there have been shortages since the 2008 election, due to President Barack Obama’s perceived anti-gun stances, Franklin said.
“There’s been an increase in demand for ammunition ever since Obama took office, I’m not going to lie to you. But historically they’ve leveled out,” Franklin said.
Franklin also said he remembered “when this happened the last time, when they passed the ’94 assault weapons ban, there was no increase in demand for ammunition.”
Henry Patterson, a public relations major from Griffin, has had difficulty buying ammo for his guns.
“Anything besides the oddball calibers are just like wiped clean everywhere you go, especially anything that fits in a semi-automatic rifle,” Patterson said. “Anything that a semi-automatic rifle is chambered in is impossible to find. And if you can find it, it’s bumped up in price.”
Patterson didn’t understand the run on ammo because the pending legislation wouldn’t affect bullets. Patterson said he’d looked for bullets at local stores in Athens and two gun shows, but had been unable to find anything.
“I went to two gun shows, one before Christmas and one right after Christmas,” Patterson said. “The one I went to right before Christmas was in Marietta, and it started at 9. I got there at 9:15 and the fire marshal was there actually making people get out of the building because it was over-occupied.”
One place in Athens untouched by the shortage has been the UGA Police Department. Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said when they experienced the first shortage, four or five years ago, the department made sure to stock up.
“What we did; we noticed the first, we made sure that we were ordering in a little more frequency to make sure we maintain a better supply, just in case there became a shortage again,” Williamson said. “So this most recent surge in demand by the civilian market, so to speak, and the military demand, we’re in good shape.”
Williamson said the need for ammunition is for state training rather than gun fights.
“The reason bullets are of any consequence is we have to do qualifications throughout the year that meet state standards to maintain proficiency with firearms, and we have to do it with all of the fire arms that we would usually carry,” Williamson said. “The bullet demand, from law enforcement, is mainly a training component.”