Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shortages of ammo and gun accessories cropping up nationwide

Brisk sales of ammo are leading to shortage in Texas, nationwide

By ANNA M. TINSLEY

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Most days are like Christmas for Glen Furtardo.

When he opens boxes sent to the Winchester Gallery gun store in east Fort Worth, he finds out what ammunition he’ll have to stock his shelves with that day as demand for weapons and ammo soars.

Reports of heavy sales at gun stores began around the time of Barack Obama’s election as president, and months later, dealers are facing ammo shortages nationwide.

"People are panicking and buying," said Furtardo, assistant manager. "The crime rate is high, and they are flat scared of what is going to happen in the next few years with the economy and the country. Manufacturers weren’t prepared for this."

Retailers and consumers say there may be several reasons gun stores are running out of ammunition — and the cost of what is available is rising.

There’s a widespread expectation that Obama’s administration will follow through on a campaign promise to reimpose an assault weapons ban. Some people fear that taxes on ammunition, guns and other firearms-related materials might drastically increase, as they have on cigarettes.

Administration officials and Democratic leaders in Congress began saying this month that while they hope to eventually change gun control policies, they will not push the assault weapons ban for now because they know how divisive that debate would be and they don’t want to distract from other goals.

The slumping economy — and the angst it brings — is also prompting many first-time buyers to purchase guns and stockpile ammunition. But the economy could also make it hard for manufacturers to get credit to buy supplies to make all that ammo.

Whatever the reason, gun stores nationwide face back-ordered ammunition requests and in some cases a wait of six to eight months for delivery.

As the demand grows, the cost of ammunition is rising — as is the cost of guns and supplies such as cleaning kits and eye and ear protection.

"This is the same thing the oil industry did to us, but now it’s with ammunition," said Tom Mullenix of Oklahoma, who recently shopped at Cheaper Than Dirt in Fort Worth.

Federal moves

Around the November 2008 elections, some gun store owners began seeing a sharp increase in gun and ammunition sales.

This year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that the Obama administration would consider pursuing a renewed ban, such as the one that prohibited the possession and sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell last week called on Congress to renew the ban to protect peace officers on the streets.

But some leaders say this may not be the right time for the ban.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have indicated that they are reluctant to move forward, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recently echoed that on CBS’ 60 Minutes. But she said she hasn’t given up and will "pick the time and the place, no question about it," to seek a renewal of the ban.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, said: "It’s a political firestorm. The closer to the election, the less enthusiasm there will be to take it up."

Rising cost

Chad Lane shoots competitively twice a month.

To save money on the 200 to 400 bullets he uses, he makes them himself. But even those costs are going up.

Last year, he could make 100 rounds for $123. Now, 100 rounds cost $165, he said.

"I’m trying to stock up," said Lane, a 20-year-old truck driver. He’s not the only one.

DeWayne Irwin, owner of Cheaper Than Dirt, is having a hard time keeping some ammunition on his shelves.

He has ordered millions of rounds but has been told that he may wait six to eight months for some of those deliveries.

Already, there’s a shortage of ammunition for the .25 ACP and .380 pistols.

And prices are rising on those and nearly all other types of ammunition. A box of 50 rounds for a 9 mm pistol, for instance, sold last year for $12.97. Today, it costs $29.97.

"It’s so bad," Irwin said. "It’s crazy.  . . . And for the foreseeable future, it’s not going to get any better.

"It’s going to get worse."

New users

Part of the reason for the increased demand is that a lot of new gun owners are buying ammo in bulk to use now and to stockpile, Irwin said.

"We have a shortage of cleaning kits and eye and ear protection in addition to the ammunition shortages," he said. "That tells me people are buying them and shooting them.

"People are scared they are going to have to take their gun and fight for that bucket of carrots or whatever."

Instead of buying two boxes of ammunition, a customer might buy 10.

"People are hoarding it," Irwin said. "They think it’s either going to run out or people will be taxed more and no one will be able to afford it."

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