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NEWS & ANALYSIS

American Gun & Ammo Shortages Driven by Political Climate

Amid social upheaval, reports indicate that nearly 5 million people bought their first gun this year. In recent months, it has been almost impossible in many places to find certain types of ammunition, as Americans load up on firearms and supplies. Manufacturers say they are struggling to keep up with a demand that dwarfs that of recent years.

The struggle emanates from a combination of increased demand, coupled with the fact that back in March various state governments engaged in a somewhat arbitrary practice of designating some gun and ammunition manufacturers to be “essential” while refusing to allow others to remain open.

Many political figures are indicating a belief that the country is already in the beginning stages of a revolution.

This year, gun sales rose 135 percent year-over year in July, totaling around 2 million purchases for the month, according to an August Report from Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. The report estimated that “the market for the first seven months of 2020 now has nearly matched that of the entire year of 2019.” A similar report from the Brookings Institute found that 19 million firearms were purchased in the first half of 2020. Brookings pointed out that this figure can be translated to one firearm for every 20 Americans. Both reports used data from the FBI’s Criminal Background check system.

In a May op-ed for The Daily Caller, Montana Shooting Sports Association President Gary Marbut explained the mechanics of the ammunition shortage, which he clarified exist “pretty much for all calibers,” as well as components and reloading equipment.

“Part of the problem is that the federal government is purchasing large amounts of ammo, which is stressing an already-stressed marketplace,” explained Marbut. “However, the larger problem is the difference in elasticity (responsiveness to price changes)between supply and demand.”

Compared to firearm demand, the supply side of the industry is considerably inelastic. This means that the supply does not respond dramatically to either increases or decreases in demand, impacting the price [people are willing to pay,  but remains relatively consistent.  Marbut explains that manufacturers max out production increases at around 30-40 percent.

“The component suppliers can’t expand more than 30-40% before they max out their material suppliers, all the way to the ends of the many supply chains,” says Marbut.

But industry demand is extremely elastic, in that it is “driven by Americans’ psychological responses to economic and political uncertainties,” Marbut explains, adding “As long as people have discretionary funds available and are stressed by political and economic uncertainty, or even by perceived political and economic uncertainty, demand for ammo will outstrip supply.”

In late September, the CEO of Scottsdale, Arizona based Ammo Incorporated told local news, “We’re working right now seven days a week, 24 hours a day in all the manufacturing plants.” The company has had to expand production on a massive scale.

“The start was the pandemic that was going on. But there was always that fear of the election. Of who’s going to be elected as the next President of the United States,” he said. “But thirdly, I think the unrest in this country right now. And as you’ve seen in a lot of cities, the looting and the burning, and I think people are just scared.”

The National Rifle Association’s Shooting Illustrated predicted in August that “the current ammunition shortage may continue at least until 2021—perhaps longer,” citing a 17 percent increase in orders to Winchester Ammunition for the quarter.

While the media often frames gun ownership as a conservative issue driven by paranoia, the language from Democrats and progressive outlets this year has helped to blur any line that exists between paranoia and preparation.

Earlier this year, Odyssey published a piece fantasizing about the possibility of an “armed revolution” made possible by conservatives and liberals “unit[ing] under the cause that this fascist must be stopped.

“For this to happen, the President would need to do something drastic that only a miniscule minority of citizens would approve of (ethnic cleansing, nuclear war, etc). This regime would need to face large-scale opposition from the citizens, select members of the government, and most importantly, the military,” read the piece.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry recently made comments suggesting that a  “revolution” of sorts is imminent.

“If people don’t have adequate access to the ballot, I mean that’s the stuff on which revolutions are built,” Kerry said. “If you begin to deny people the capacity of your democracy to work, even the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, we have an inherent right to challenge that. And I’m worried that increasingly, people are disaffected.”

In March, New York Post reported that Democratic Congressman Tom Souzzi (D-NY) hinted at an armed rebellion against the President, specifically citing the 2nd Amendment:

“It’s really a matter of putting public pressure on the president,” Suozzi said in a newly released video of the March 12 talk in Huntington. “This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the president was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?”

A listener then blurts out, “What’s the Second Amendment?”

The left-leaning Democrat says, “The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms.”

In July Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) seemed to suggest a military coup against the President, tweeting “Where are our military folks ? The Commander in Chief is in the hands of our enemy!”

Perhaps one of the most relevant voices on the topic, notorious Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers claims the civil war has already begun. “Am I the only one, or do you feel eerily that we’re living in Kansas, 1859, and that tensions are boiling over, but only years later will people say, ‘Yes, the Civil War began there and then?,” said Ayers

Ayers took part in the Weather Underground Bombings of the early 1970’s targeting the New York City Police Department headquarters, the U.S. Capitol building, and the Pentagon.

Written By

Celine Ryan is an American journalist covering politics, culture, tech, and higher education.

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