Without bullets, a gun is no more useful as a weapon than a rock or a hammer. Although an unloaded gun could be thrown at an intruder or a tyrant, the lack of ammunition ultimately reduces it to the status of a glorified paperweight.
And this is not lost on the nearly 100 million gun owners in America, a number of which are asking if the current shortage of bullets is the result of backdoor efforts at gun control (via ammunition control) by the Obama Administration?
The quick answer to that question is — not exactly.
In other words, the reasons behind the current shortage, as the well as the price increases on what little ammunition is available, are both governmental and nongovernmental in nature.
As for the government’s role, a prime example arose in March 2009 when the Department of Defense (DOD) suddenly changed its policy about selling old brass from spent military rounds to Georgia Arms, an ammunition manufacturer located in Winston, Georgia.
According to Curtis Shipley, President of Georgia Arms, on March 12, 2009, the DOD, which had been a longstanding source of cheap brass for the ammo manufacturer, decided that brass could only be purchased from the military if it was “mutilated.” In other words, it would not longer be possible to buy empty brass casings that Georgia Arms could then clean, quickly reload, and sell to the public at a low price.
When I spoke to Shipley, who had been accustomed to buying spent brass in increments of fifteen tons from the DOD, he said, “This portended higher prices because it required us to either mutilate perfectly good brass when we picked it up from a military base or have a DOD employee travel with us (and the brass) to verify that we did indeed mutilate it at a another site.”
Once mutilated, Georgia Arms would have had to melt the brass down, re-alloy it (casings for each caliber require a specific alloy blend that can sustain the pressures for that caliber), and then re-shape it into the proper casing for whichever caliber they were manufacturing. Said Shipley: “Such a process would add approximately $90 to the cost of one thousand rounds of 9mm ammunition right off the bat.”
Fortunately, the public outcry against this DOD maneuver was so great that the order to mutilate all brass was rescinded after just five days. However, those five days were enough to contribute to another problem the government had been causing since November 2008 – namely, fear of an all out Obama-led assault on guns and ammo.
Speaking to this fear, Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, said: “You can go to gun stores all over the country and many of them will have a picture of President Obama hanging on the wall. However, when you get up close to the picture and look at the caption on the bottom, instead of saying ‘President’ it says ‘Gun Salesman of the Year.’”
Pratt said gun owners are rightly leery of this administration. Obama supports the new California law that will require every semi-automatic pistol sold in that state to come equipped with a special firing mechanism that makes a distinctive mark – a “fingerprint” – on every bullet casing it fires. And currently, some Democrats in the House of Representatives want to take that law a step further and enact legislation that would force ammunition companies to place serial numbers on every shell casing they manufacture.
Let me just say that if you think ammunition is scarce and expensive now, wait till manufacturers have to put a serial number on every casing and maintain records containing the names, addresses, etc., of everyone who purchases such casings.
No wonder Pratt said: “None of this is about safety. Rather, it’s about finding ways to create an ammo and gun registry that will allow the government to finally figure out which son got daddy’s gun when daddy passed away.”
And while the government is doing its part to make ammunition harder to find, either directly, via episodes like the one between Georgia Arms and the DOD, or indirectly, by scaring citizens to death through anti-gun posturing that has caused a run on ammo sales, the market plays a role as well. With demand outpacing supply the market sustains higher prices for ammo under Obama than it was able to sustain for that same ammo during the presidency of a pro-gun politician like George W. Bush.
Add to this the fact that we’re now sending the majority of the lead from our recycled car batteries to China, instead of selling that lead to ammunition manufacturers who can cheaply reclaim it to make affordable bullets for their casings, and it’s no wonder consumers are scrambling to find ammunition and then paying a fortune for it when they do.
Did I fail to mention that millions upon millions of rounds of ammunition are currently being diverted to our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere right now as well? While this is understandable, it further highlights the fact that we gun owners are in a tight spot, as far as getting ammunition for our guns is concerned.
With all these variables affecting the availability of ammunition, this would be a great time to join a group like Gun Owners of America. By so doing we would assure the politicians in D.C. that if they use their offices to further deny us bullets for our guns, we will use the voting booth to deny them the very offices they now hold.
HUMAN EVENTS columnist A.W.R. Hawkins holds a Ph.D. in U.S. Military History from Texas Tech University. He will be a Visiting Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal during the summer of 2010.