Law enforcement deals with ammo shortage

When the Washington County Sheriff’s Office goes to order ammunition this year, a long wait is expected before the order arrives, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

“We order once a year and it usually takes six to eight months to get an order of ammunition,” he said.

According to The Associated Press, law enforcement agencies across the nation are feeling the crunch of an ammunition shortage, created because of a sudden jump in demand after a December school shooting in Newtown, Conn. led to broad talks of gun control legislation.

The Parkersburg Police Department recently ordered its annual supply of ammunition, said Lt. R.J. Young, who takes care of the order.

“They have some of what we get in stock and we might have to wait like a month for some of the rifle ammo,” he said.

The department keeps enough ammunition on hand that they do not have to worry about the month delay, he said.

Still, said Young, “I think that’s only happened a few times with us where we had to wait to get it.”

And this is not necessarily the first time departments have seen this problem.

Young recalled that ordering ammunition was a quicker process before the Iraq War.

And for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, a six to eight month wait has been typical for the past four years, said Mincks.

Prior to that, it typically took three months to receive a similar order, he said.

Officers who buy ammunition for personal use or extra practice have also been feeling the squeeze.

“It’s hard to get anything anymore,” said Detective Sgt. Scott Parks of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

People have been panic buying, sparked by fear that talks of gun legislation will prohibit certain types or amounts of ammunition, said Parks.

The Marietta Police Department orders its ammunition as needed, and has not encountered any problems, said Capt. Jeff Waite. However, the department also has not put in an order recently, he said.

However, MPD officers who buy ammunition for themselves have noticed the change.

Marietta Police Sgt. Rod Hupp reloads his own ammunition, meaning he adds the necessary components to a used brass casing to make it reusable.

“There is only a subset of gun owners that re-manufacture their own ammunition, and even those components are hard to come by,” he said.

The ammunition rush started just two days after the Connecticut shooting, said Hupp.

“After the realization that this tragedy would be capitalized on politically, it led people to make purchases they would otherwise not have made or to purchase items sooner,” he said.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will not need to ration ammunition or scale back on officer training, said Mincks.

But that is because the department learned the hard way to keep a large reserve, he said.

“Getting a year and keeping a year in reserve has helped us because sometimes it does get close,” said Mincks.

The department typically uses a large quantity of ammunition during the spring practice tactical sessions and again during fall qualifying sessions, he said. Before the department ordered a year in reserve, the department found itself crossing its fingers that the yearly order would arrive before the fall qualifiers, said Mincks.

Parkersburg has also prepared for the potential delays, said Young.

“We keep enough around here that we do not have to worry about it. We don’t wait until the last minute,” he said.

But nationally, some law enforcement agencies have, according to The Associated Press.

Police in metro Atlanta, Ga. told the Associated Press they are having to delay training for officers because of the shortage.

Ted Offenberger, owner of Waterford outdoors store the Southeastern Trading Post, has had a hard time ordering enough ammunition to keep up with demand, he said.

And this rush is likely to put the supply chain out of sync for months, rather than weeks, he said.

“Last time, when President Obama was elected the first time, it took a year or two to get back to normal,” said Offenberger.

Ammunition manufacturers are slowly allocating small shipments of both guns and ammunition among dealers.

Still, said Offenberger, “I’m assuming and I would hope that the ammunition manufacturers would allocate ammo to the military and police before they do civilians.”