A Shortage Of Ammunition

In a year of job losses, foreclosures and bag lunches, Americans have spent record-breaking amounts of money on guns and ammunition. The most obvious sign of their demand: empty ammunition shelves.

Gun owners have bought about 12 billion rounds of ammunition in the past year, industry officials estimate. That’s up from 7 billion to 10 billion in a normal year.

The rush for bullets, like this year’s increase in gun sales, says something about how suspicious the two sides in the gun-control debate are of each other, even at a time when the issue is on Washington’s back burner.

The Obama factor

Democrats prompt sales of both guns and ammo. The U.S. government taxes both to support wildlife conservation, and those receipts are on pace to set a record in 2009, according to Treasury Department data, with tax revenue due from guns up 42 percent and revenue due from ammunition at 49 percent.

For gun owners, the run on ammunition has created shortages and price increases on everything from cheap .22-caliber bullets used for target shooting to the expensive hollow-point 9mm rounds bought for home defense.

Reason for alarm?

“I think it’s Katrina. I think it’s terrorism. I think it’s crime. And I also think that it’s people worrying about [whether] they’ll be attacked by politicians,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. “They’re suspicious, and justifiably so.”

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