The sheriff in my county told a Gannett reporter in March that his department’s cost per round of ammunition has risen about 25 percent over the past year. He was paying 23 cents last year, so we can estimate his 2021 costs at about 29 cents per round.
Reporter Isaiah Seibert wrote cryptically that government ammunition customers “have their own suppliers shielding them from the worst effects of the shortage,” and apparently he was right: is anybody else getting their ammunition for 29 cents per round?
The owner of the main indoor shooting range in our city said his cost for ammunition is up “two to three times” (100 to 200 percent) over the previous year. He has had to give up on his conventional suppliers and jump between online brokers or, in a pinch, to arbitrage ammunition he buys at retail.
“My normal vendors that I had before, all of our distributors, they’re all dry.”
What about this discrepancy between private prices and government prices for ammunition?
It’s not necessarily a scandal for manufacturers and distributors to make sure their best customers stay happy with them. They would be foolish to alienate a dependable buyer like a government agency. I would expect price breaks and privileged delivery schedules for the kind of customer who can make or break a supplier.
But what if a customer can make or break the entire industry? What if a customer can see to it that most other customers are slowly starved of ammunition, making an abundance of firearms irrelevant?
The government is not merely a consumer of firearms and ammunition, of course. It is a regulator and a legislator with leverage that no other consumer can muster. It has secondary tools of hardball financial and corporate intervention.
And so government purchases are not merely a hemorrhage from the private supply of ammunition, but an irresistible incentive for manufacturers and distributors to play ball. It’s a carrot they can’t refuse, or had better not.
I have an entrepreneurial relative in a distant state who saw opportunity in the ammunition shortage last year. He crunched some numbers and concluded that he could sell a lot of ammunition at a reasonable price. There were eager buyers in abundance. He got his licenses, bought machines and leased facilities.
But as quickly as he got his brand new machinery humming, he ran out of components, whether primer, casings or projectiles. Eventually he learned that major ammunition manufacturers had cornered the market on components, and were preventing new competitors from entering the market by depriving them of any reliable supply of components.
These monopolists were not making ammunition out of the components, just hoarding components and pressuring their suppliers to deprive potential competitors of the necessary raw ingredients of production.
How does a business organization that no longer produces anything nevertheless wield the cash reserves to monopolize an industry? I’m afraid we’ll have to hope for clarification by some future Wikileaks dump or Project Veritas investigation on that. The Deep State recently demonstrated in the Arizona legislature’s election audit that it reserves the right to destroy evidence and defy lawful subpoenas.
Suffice it to say that only an anti-Second Amendment person or entity of vast wealth, probably not the American government, is capable of writing that kind of check in opaque and unaccountable secrecy.
Yet it appears that the U.S. government played the central role alienating major ammunition manufacturers and distributors from the loyal private customers who put them on the map. Like a flashy homewrecking Lothario, government buyers waved flash rolls that persuaded ammunition executives their penny-pinching retail customers were more trouble than they were worth.
On the website OpenTheBooks.com, you can see that our federal government spent nearly a billion dollars ($944.9 million, adjusted for inflation) from 2015 through 2019 on guns, ammunition and military-style gear for federal employees who are not in the Department of Defense. It is, at least in part, a militarization of the federal workforce. Having established executive supremacy, the Administrative State is now arming to defend its gains.
The Internal Revenue Service had 1,200 fewer Special Agents than in 1995, but the agency purchased 4,500 firearms and stockpiled 5 million rounds of ammunition for its remaining 2,159 agents.
But the Internal Revenue staffing is the exception, rather than the rule: the nonprofit American Transparency estimates that there are now more federal civilian employees with firearms authority than there are U.S. Marines.
Some of the expenditures were surely justified. Various federal law enforcement agencies were included. But some appeared absurd. The Veterans Administration had no police department when I first started going to its doctors. But they staffed up quickly about 15 years ago and, by 2008, they had 3,957 police officers. They purchased 11 million rounds of ammunition, approximately 2,800 rounds per officer.
It’s not clear how much ammunition is purchased by state and local law enforcement agencies, but the federal government has certainly ensured that they’ll have something to shoot it with.
The Department of Defense has transferred 5.56mm and 7.62mm rifles, .38 cal., .40 cal. and .45 cal. pistols, 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchers as well as sniper scopes and stun devices to state and local law enforcement. Also helicopters, airplanes and underwater vehicles.
The top state recipient of this federal firepower is California.
Of the current inventory of state and local law enforcement agencies, about $1.8 billion is military gear contributed by the Defense Department. As woke urban Democrats defund civilian police departments, state and local police dependency on Pentagon generosity will only increase.
This will provide Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with greater leverage against state and local agencies that might otherwise resist lawless immigration policies or attempts to disarm the American people. Austin has already demonstrated his willingness to put leftist ideological purity before mission accomplishment in his own organization; we should expect no different in his dealings with state and local civilian agencies.
All of this points toward a chronic, ongoing, perhaps permanent ammunition famine in America. Without ammunition, firearms cannot deter tyranny or violent crime, or restrain mobs. The Second Amendment is impotent without ammunition. And so it’s urgent that we restore robust manufacture and distribution of it.
Kudos to Sen. Josh Hawley for calling Republicans to the ramparts against monopolistic social media censors. May his tribe increase. But I hope the anti-monopolists will also call public hearings and conduct investigations of the ammunition monopoly and its anti-competitive practices.
Who is writing checks to these idle monopolists to suffocate manufacture and distribution of ammunition? Is it the same people who tried and failed to win legislative action against lawful gun owners? The mainstream media have no inclination to find out, but we deserve to know.
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