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“Stoking The Fears”: With Gun Nuts Hoarding Bullets, Will Cops Be Disarmed?

Dayne Pryor is the chief of police in Rollingwood, Texas, a small suburb of Austin. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 31 years and I’ve been a chief for eight years,” he sighs. “And it’s just one of those things that I never thought I’d have a problem with, especially being in Texas.”

Pryor’s problem, he explains to Salon, is that he’s having trouble finding ammunition and firearms for his officers, thanks to a national shortage. The cause? A run on supply from gun lovers afraid that Congress or state legislatures will impose new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

“Everyone is thinking, they’re going to stop manufacturing, or they’re going to be taxing and all this, so it’s just this mentality of, let’s all buy up everything now just in case. And it hurts us,” Pryor said. “This is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be happening to law enforcement.”

But he’s hardly alone. Rommel Dionisio, a New York-based firearms industry analyst at Wedbush Inc., confirms the trend is a national phenomenon. “Most certainly, ammunition is in very tight supply in addition to firearms,” thanks to “consumer fears of possible bans,” he told Salon in an email.

It’s a problem that’s backed up by local news reports across the country, in which police chiefs issue similar warnings, mostly in smaller communities where departments don’t have the multiyear buying contracts and heavy financial resources of big city law enforcement agencies.

In Marinette, Wis., police chief John Mabry told the Eagle Herald, “Ammo is expensive and a lot tougher to get. People don’t have it in stock and it’s backordered.” In Jenks, Okla., chief Cameron Arthur told KRJH that “most police departments are having a very difficult time even getting the necessary ammunition.” In Sandy Springs, Ga., police chief Terry Sult told WSB-TV his armory selves are mostly empty: “When you can’t get ammunition, it is very concerning.”

In Bozeman, Mont., Sgt. Jason LaCross told KTVM, “Nobody can get us ammunition at this point.” In Tennessee, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department told WDEF that the shortage is affecting their training.

Nima Samadi, a senior analyst at IBISWorld Market Research who tracks the guns and ammunition markets, says some ammunition manufacturers are running their supply lines almost 24 hours a day and having employees work overtime, but still can’t keep up with demand. “So they’re doing really great business,” he told Salon in an interview.

Indeed, business is booming for the firearms industry in the wake of Sandy Hook, propelled by trumped-up fears of gun control. And it’s not the first time. There was a huge surge in gun and ammo purchases in late 2008 after the election of Barack Obama. The market did not stabilize until late 2010 or 2011. And observers say the current shortage may be even more severe than the previous one.

The round of “panic buying” in 2008 was mostly constrained to assault rifles and didn’t last very long, Chief Pryor said. “But what happened this year, when it kicked in, it was just across the board, across the country, ammunition shortage, firearms shortage, with no end in sight.”

In 2008, the fears proved entirely unfounded, as Obama did nothing on gun control during his first four years in office. Now, Congress may act, but the stockpiling of guns and ammo is almost equally irrational. No one has seriously proposed bans on any kind of guns aside from assault rifles, and even that proposal was dead upon arrival (and now it’s really dead). And no one in power — Chris Rock doesn’t count — has proposed major restrictions on bullets, making the run on ammunition particularly unfounded.

“This shortage is all perception based,” Samadi says. “It’s all ultimately a reflection of fears over potential gun laws and people ramping up their purchases to stockpile.”

In fact, the “gun control” package emerging in Congress will not even touch a single gun, but deals entirely with the process around guns — background checks, trafficking laws, mental health, etc.

“It only takes one congressman somewhere to suggest that they’re going to, perhaps, restrict online gun sales or something like that, for a whole story line to be created around it to stoke the fires about a potential change in the laws that will probably never happen,” Samadi adds.

And there are plenty of members of Congress making hyperbolic claims about gun control, and a right-wing media eager to heighten and repeat the warnings. Not to mention the NRA, the most powerful voice on guns in the country and the market leader on paranoid gun rhetoric for decades.

But what those rushing to stockpile guns and ammo seem to miss is that their actions have consequences on the people whose job it is to keep us safe. Pro-gun rhetoric often pits armed citizens against the slow response time of police officers. Here, the conflict is brought to life.

Jim Bueermann, the president of the Police Foundation, a Washington-based research nonprofit, tells Salon that departments are being hit with a double whammy by this shortage. During the recession, most reduced their stockpiles and thinned their supply chain to keep costs down, so when the shortage hit, they were left with low inventory and no way to replenish it.

He experienced shortages firsthand when he served as chief of police in Redlands, Calif, and said, “It caused serious problems for us.”

While the bullets cops carry in their weapons as they walk the beat are probably safe, “The primary impact of the shortage is on training — due both to delays in obtaining ammunition and the increase in cost,” explained Darrel Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, in an email to Salon.

Police officers return to the shooting range several times a year to keep up with qualifications, so departments consume a lot of ammunition. This is to keep officers’ skills sharp, but also for liability reasons, the experts said. Now, many are reporting having to cut back on the frequency of these exercises for their officers, and some are even forced to use service ammunition for training.

“Smaller agencies are much more sensitive to these kinds of budgetary constraints,” Bueermann says, “and they’re not going to have the resources to stockpile supplies.”

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Must Find A Better Way”: Armed Guards In Schools Is A Dangerous Diversion

Sandy Hook Elementary School has been added to America’s ghastly litany of school shootings. We cry. We pray. We grieve. Then we grieve even more, knowing that unless fundamental and decisive actions are taken in our society, we’ll be grieving again for the victims of the next school shooting.

As educators whose colleagues have given their lives protecting students, we challenge America to confront the evil done by guns to our children and young people. We need focused efforts leading to deliberative action, not staggeringly misguided ideas about arming educators and a mind-boggling proposal to place armed guards at every school in the United States.

Our deepest instincts are to nurture and protect the children and young people in our charge. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, educators risked their lives putting themselves between the shooter and their students, just as they did at Columbine, Jonesboro, and other school shootings. We dream of day when every child is safe and every school is a sanctuary of learning. But if we continue to dream alone, it’s only a dream. When we dream together, that is when a new reality begins.

“Take the first step in faith,” Martin Luther King Jr. said. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase.”

In the wake of Sandy Hook, Americans seem ready to take that first step. A serious conversation has begun about meaningful action on gun control. Reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, and instituting universal background checks are critical and commonsense gun control measures.

Consider this: Since 1979, when data was first collected, 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence in America. Imagine if a foreign power had inflicted such violence upon us. How would we have reacted? Would we have allowed our politicians to duck and cower? We can’t allow this violence to go on. We can’t turn away and think, well, that is just the way it is. We can, and must, find a better way to live in this country.

Yet as essential as commonsense gun control is, it will not suffice in a country awash in guns. We need to look at what can be done to prevent a deranged young man from picking up a gun in the first place. We need to improve availability and access to mental health services—no state or insurance company should be able to rely on escape clauses to deny what is basic healthcare coverage. We need to remove the stigma from seeking mental healthcare, a stigma that is common throughout society. There is also much we can do in our schools. We need to dramatically expand our focus on mental health. A huge shortage of school counselors and psychologists exists due to education budget cuts, and we need to reverse that trend.

The essence of democracy is self-government, and 119,079 dead children and young people calls into question our ability to govern ourselves. The best way, and perhaps the only way, to prove that we can make self-governance work again is by coming together—educators, parents, and all citizens of conscience—and doing whatever it takes and spending whatever it costs to protect our children.

Let’s close ranks, heal the breach, and restore peace to our children’s lives.

 

By: Dennis Van Roekel, U. S. News and World Report, December 24, 2012

December 25, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Transparent Public Relations Ploy”: Don’t Be Fooled, Walmart Hasn’t Changed Anything

In this week’s issue, we describe how Walmart has expanded gun sales—including military-style assault weapons—to half of its stores nationwide, and is the country’s biggest retailer of guns and ammunition in the country.

As our story was about to be published, Walmart removed a Bushmaster AR-15 style assault rifle, the same gun Adam Lanza used to carry out his attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School, from its website. All of the other assault weapons remain. (See other examples here).

This is one of the most transparent public relations moves in relation to a dangerous product that I can recall—it was literally the least Walmart could do. To be clear, the store never actually sold the guns online. Rather, you can peruse Walmart’s gun inventory on its website, read customer reviews and product specifications and then find a Walmart near you that carries the item.

All Walmart did was remove that one gun, the one most likely to create a public relations problem, from a website where you couldn’t buy it anyway. But the Bushmaster remains on Walmart shelves—something the retail giant confirmed to MSNBC this afternoon, saying there is “no change” to its firearm sales.

Other retail chains, however, are making changes—though only slightly more substantial than Walmart’s URL adjustment. Dick’s Sporting Goods is “suspending” sales of some rifles in stores nationwide during “this time of national mourning,” and taking all guns out of stores located near Newtown, Connecticut. Cabela’s will stop selling AR-15s in Connecticut only.

If Walmart were to curtail weapons sales, however, it wouldn’t just hurt their bottom line. Freedom Group, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the country with $237.9 million in annual sales, said in its most recent financial statement that Walmart accounts for 13 percent of those sales alone, and warned investors of trouble should Walmart ever change its policy:

Our sales to Wal-Mart are generally not governed by a written long-term contract between the parties. In the event that Wal-Mart were to significantly reduce or terminate its purchases of firearms, ammunition and/or other products from us, our financial condition or results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected.

Freedom Group was dumped today by its private equity owner, Cerberus Capital, following investor pressure. They’re in for more trouble if Walmart stops selling guns—but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon, based on how the retail giant has responded so far.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, December 18, 2012

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Corporations, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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