Ammunition shortages that continue to affect gun owners across the United States amid record-high firearm sales have now begun impacting law enforcement agencies.
According to The Associated Press on Saturday, many gun store shelves sit empty and ammunition prices keep rising despite manufacturers producing as much ammunition as possible. Doug Tangen, the firearms instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission – a state police academy – said the school has struggled to acquire ammo.
“A few months ago, we were at a point where our shelves were nearly empty of 9mm ammunition,” Tangen said, noting that instructors started taken steps to conserve ammo, including reducing the amount a gun is fired per drill.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has also felt the shortage. Spokesman and Officer Larry Hadfield said the department has “made efforts to conserve ammunition when possible.”
The AP said the United States military remains unaffected by the shortage of ammunition because it produces its own, but local gun stores and gun range owners, who often train new gun owners on how to handle firearms, are feeling the scarcity.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Duane Hendrix, range master of the Seattle Police Athletic Association, a civilian gun range. “There’s stuff we can’t get, especially rifle ammo. If you don’t have ammo for your customers, there’s no point in having your doors open.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) said over 50 million Americans participate in shooting sports, and estimates roughly 20 million guns were purchased in 2020, including 8 million by first-time buyers.
“When you talk about all these people buying guns, it really has an impact on people buying ammunition,” NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva said. ”If you look at 8.4 million gun buyers and they all want to buy one box with 50 rounds, that’s going to be 420 million rounds.”
According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), 25.1 million background checks for gun purchases have been conducted in the U.S. as of July this year. The number doesn’t directly reflect the number of guns sold since only one background check is required to purchase multiple guns.
The continued rise in gun sales comes after a year marked by violent riots that raged across the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic and government-implemented lockdowns, as well as calls to defund the police.
“Where there is an increased sense of instability, fear and insecurity, more people will purchase guns,” Air Freilich from the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence told The Associated Press.