Saturday, March 8, 2014
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN / The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — Gun enthusiasts fearful of new weapon controls and alarmed by rumors of government hoarding are buying bullets practically by the bushel, making it hard for stores nationwide to keep shelves stocked and even putting a pinch on some local law enforcement departments.
Bruce Martindale competes in a weekly air gun league in Troy, N.Y. Martindale, who normally uses a .22-caliber, has cut back on practice because ammunition is in short supply.
The Associated Press
MARYLAND POISED TO ADD TOUGH GUN-CONTROL LAW
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's already-strong gun laws will become among the strictest in the nation with a measure passed by the General Assembly Thursday, sending the bill to the Democratic governor who proposed the legislation in the aftermath of December's massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
The state Senate voted 28-19 for final passage.
The measure would require people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to state police, bans 45 types of assault weapons, and limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. It also addresses firearms access for the mentally ill.
Maryland will become the first state in nearly 20 years to require potential handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police. Only five other states have a similar requirement: Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
Although the measure bans 45 types of assault weapons, people who own them now will be able to keep them. People who order the weapons before Oct. 1, when the law would take effect, also would be able to keep them.
People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility won't be allowed to have a gun.
Critics noted that Maryland already has strong laws, including universal background checks and a seven-day waiting period to buy a gun. The state doesn't even have a loophole allowing for private sales at gun shows without the same background check that licensed dealers are required to obtain, said Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard.
"We have those protections, and what we're doing here is basically saying to folks who are concerned about their Second Amendment rights is, you know, 'We don't care,"' Kittleman said.
Also on Thursday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre there.
– The Associated Press
At a 24-hour Walmart in suburban Albany, the ammunition cabinet was three-fourths empty this week; sales clerks said customers must arrive before 9 the morning after a delivery to get what they want. A few miles away, Dick's Sporting Goods puts up a red rope after ammunition deliveries so buyers can line up early to get a number, averting races up the escalator to the gun counter. Both stores are limiting ammunition purchases to three boxes a day.
In mid-January, two days after New York became the first state to toughen laws post-Newtown, hunter and target shooter Mark Smith spent $250 to stockpile ammunition, including $43 for a brick of 500 .22-caliber bullets, commonly used for target shooting and hunting small game.
"I had a feeling there was going to be a huge ammunition shortage," said Smith, browsing shotgun shells this week at Dick's. "Especially .22s. It's probably the most popular round out there."
Likewise, the .223 ammunition used in popular semi-automatic rifles is hard to find.
At Hunter's Haven, a strip-mall gun shop in the farming community of Rolesville, N.C., north of Raleigh, clerk Dean Turnage said ammunition is going out "as fast as we can get it in," even though new gun controls are not on the state's agenda.
The run started in November with President Obama's re-election, followed by the mass shooting in December of children in Newtown, Conn., which led the president to launch an effort to strengthen federal gun controls and several states to tighten their laws.
Connecticut on Thursday became the latest to crack down as the governor signed a measure – effective immediately – that adds more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban, creates a dangerous weapon offender registry and institutes eligibility rules for ammunition purchases.
Hours before the law took effect, hundreds of customers streamed out of Hoffman's Gun Center in Newington with guns and boxes of ammunition. "The bad guys are going to get guns," said John Power, 56, of Bristol, arguing the new law would not stop a troubled gunman.
The nation's 100 million firearms owners are driving the market for some 10 billion rounds annually, with demand and gun purchases both increasing the past several months, driven partly by fear that tougher laws will restrict the ability to buy firearms, said Lawrence Keane, whose National Shooting Sports Foundation is based in Newtown.
"There's a concern by firearms owners that this administration will pursue bans on products, bans on ammunition.… It's not limited geographically to New York or anywhere else. It is nationwide," he said.
Some government critics attributed shortages to federal purchases of bullets, accusing officials of trying to hoard a billion rounds and disarm the populace.
"Department of Homeland Security and the federal government itself is buying up ammunition and components at such a rate, it's causing artificial shortage of supplies for the regular consumer," said Jesse Alday, a state corrections officer who was buying at Hunter's Haven.
"They're buying it up as fast as they can, for reasons they're not officially willing to admit or go into.... They're not willing to come up with any answers as to the reasons behind why they have enough ammunition on the U.S., on our own home soil, to wage a 25-year war," he said. "That's kind of strange."
Keane, whose group includes manufacturers, said the reports of massive federal purchases were not true.
The government routinely buys products in bulk to reduce costs, and Homeland Security has said the latest purchases are no different.
Last year, the department put out bids for a total of about 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next five years. The rounds are to be used for training, routine weapons qualification exercises and normal duty by various department agencies.
This isn't the first U.S. run on ammunition. Walmart's Kory Lundberg said the retail chain previously rationed in 2009, the year Obama entered the White House. However, sportsmen and tradesmen say the current shortages are nationwide, and the worst they've seen.
New York's law will require ammunition sellers to register and buyers to undergo a background check starting Jan. 15, 2014. Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said the run on guns and ammunition isn't surprising and is fueled by "gross exaggerations."
Bruce Martindale, a champion marksman from upstate New York who normally uses .22-caliber rimfire ammunition, said it's now hard for him to get anything, partly because online retailers are reluctant to ship to New York, with its new law.
"I can't buy supplies anywhere," he said. Like many competitors, he has cut back on practice but says he doesn't see a public safety concern.
"This is legitimate gun owners buying," he said. "I don't think criminals are stockpiling."