ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - With gun control a hot topic in Washington, firearms are flying off shelves and those buying them are facing a new challenge: finding ammunition.
“We’re seeing nothing. Nothing in inventory,” Bull’s Eye LLC owner Jim Stevens said.
Stevens says he started seeing changes at his St. Louis shooting range within days of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last month. “A lot of the customers are buying [ammunition] because it is hard to get or in case there is maybe a new ammo tax put out.”
“People are getting afraid, they want to stock up,” Lemay Guns and Ammo manager Sharlene Matthew says bluntly. “People are afraid of what could happen.”
And for gun dealers like Matthew, that’s bittersweet. “We’re making a lot of sales but what happens when they’re all gone? You can’t sell goods from an empty wagon,” she said. Matthew says the toughest calibers to find are the same ones the military is using because the military receives shipments of them first.
Stevens says if they have to turn to secondary suppliers to restock, prices will undoubtedly rise. He adds that the hype surrounding guns is nothing new. “After the ’08 election, into ’09, we had a surge like this and it was very tough to find stuff.”
The shortage hits police
Perhaps more alarming, the ammunition shortage could pose a problem for police, especially those in smaller departments, according to St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch.
“Right now, St. Louis County is good but if you’re an agency that didn’t order [ammunition] well in advance, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding it,” he said.
Fitch says County Police have a six-month supply of ammunition for their AR-15 rifles on hand. The chief echoes the opinion of Mr. Stevens, citing a direct correlation between the shortage and the Newtown shooting.
“There’s high-grade, low-grade, practice ammo and things like that but basically, what I’ve been told is the cost from before the shooting in Connecticut basically quadrupled,” he said.
Fitch tells KMOX that police learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to stock up on ammunition when competing with the military.
“The first thought for police departments is to band together and approach the manufacturers as a large group and insist that they prioritize how they are going to reduce and sell this ammunition so that conversation is going on in this country right now,” he said, adding that thus far he has not received any requests from other police departments to share ammunition but if he does he will “analyze that on a case-by-case basis.”