Pandemic driving gun, ammo sales, police and firearm instructors being left high and dry

Steadily increasing gun sales across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic lingered and then reignited in recent weeks amid the spread of the new Delta variant continue to cause sustained shortages of ammunition, which is impacting new gun owners, law enforcement agencies, and firearms instructors.

Gun sales, especially for first-time buyers, soared as the pandemic stretched for months last year but also as riots and criminal violence rose dramatically as well, all of which placed strains on U.S. ammunition makers who struggled to keep up.

Sales appeared to surge again after Joe Biden won the presidency and gun-control-pushing Democrats took over Congress, putting ammo makers even further behind.

But this time around, the shortage of ammunition has begun to negatively impact a broader segment of the country to include police agencies and firearms instructors, leaving some to worry that new gun owners won’t be able to adequately hone their skills with their new firearms.

“We have had a number of firearms instructors cancel their registration to our courses because their agency was short on ammo or they were unable to find ammo to purchase,” Jason Wuestenberg, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, told The Associated Press.

Officer Larry Hadfield with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department told the news outlet that his agency has been forced to “conserve ammunition when possible.”

Doug Tangen, a firearms instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which is the state’s police academy, told The AP the institution has been having difficulties getting enough ammunition to train recruits.

“A few months ago, we were at a point where our shelves were nearly empty of 9mm ammunition,” he said, adding that in response, firearms instructors were forced to reduce the number of rounds cadets were allowed to fire during drills, which helped the academy conserve enough over several months until it was restocked.

Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a pro-firearms industry advocacy group, said that in the U.S. some 50 million Americans take part in shooting sports while estimating that last year alone, there were 20 million firearms sold — 8 million to 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, checks for new gun purchases climbed from about 14.4 million in 2010 “to almost 39.7 million in 2020 and to 22.2 million just through June 2021 alone,” The AP noted.

Oliva pointed to a confluence of events last year that led to the record sales and “overwhelming demand” for both guns and ammunition, including pandemic lockdowns but also successful calls to defund some police departments and a resulting rise in violence and crime in most major cities.

“Where there is an increased sense of instability, fear and insecurity, more people will purchase guns,” Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence spokesman Ari Freilich told the newswire.

He noted that early in the pandemic, Americans hoarded items like toilet paper and disinfectants but now they are collecting and saving ammunition.

“Early on in the pandemic, we saw people hoarding toilet paper, disinfectant, and now it’s ammo,” he said.

Jon Dougherty

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