Gun owners concerned about growing shortages of ammunition nationwide got a bit of a reprieve this week when the Defense Department rescinded a rule requiring that spent military bullets be destroyed rather than reloaded for sale to civilians.
That rule temporarily had cut off major ammunition manufacturers from their largest supply of brass casings, used to make popular .223- and .308-caliber ammunition for the public and law enforcement.
Also hit hard under Defense’s no-sale rule were the folks at Georgia Arms, the Villa Rica, Ga., ammo dealer that is among the nation's largest supplier of reloaded military cartridges. With no used brass coming in from government liquidators in recent weeks, the company's production ground to a halt and layoffs were being discussed, according to company officials.
At a time when ammunition sales are up nationally close to 100 percent since the presidential election, Georgia Arms executives were sounding the warning that massive ammo shortages and price spikes were imminent. Local gun groups from Massachusetts to Oregon have been urging members to stockpile bullets and major retailers such as Walmart and Gander Mountain have reported shortages of some calibers, especially .223 and .308, according to published reports.
After swift and vocal outcry from legislators and gun advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association, the military changed the rule, which had been implemented to keep sensitive military hardware from making it into the hands of liquidators and, potentially, the enemy. The rewritten edict now exempts spent ammo, meaning the casings can be resold instead of crushed for scrap.
Much of the pressure for the reversal came from Montana Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, who wrote to Vice Adm. Alan S. Thompson of the Defense Logistics Agency pushing for reconsideration of the ammo resale ban.
"We strongly believe the reclassification of small arms casings should be immediately reversed," the senators wrote. "The destruction of fired brass is unwarranted and has far reaching implications. The use of firearms and reloading brass is part of our outdoor heritage.
"Prohibiting the sale of fired military brass would reduce the supply of ammunition, preventing individual gun owners from fully exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."
Late Tuesday, Defense Logistics Agency spokesman Mark Cunningham responded with the answer gun owners were looking for, according to documents from the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
"To strengthen current controls and to mitigate future security risk, the DOD issued policy that prohibits the sale of military items through its Munitions List," Cunningham wrote. "Small arms cartridge cases are identified as a sensitive Munitions List item and were held pending review of the policy. Upon review, the Defense Logistics Agency has determined the cartridge cases could be appropriately placed in a category of government property allowing for their release for sale."
NRA officials said they were satisfied with Defense’s quick action and move to quell persistent rumors that the logistics agency’s decision was part of a larger government effort to restrict gun ownership and ammunition access.
"With ammunition currently in short supply, this was welcome news, to be sure," said Chris Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist. "It also put to rest various theories and rumors that were circulated on the Internet, concerning the reason for the suspension. In sum, a problem that could have had serious repercussions for the remanufactured ammunition industry and the countless gun owners who support it, appears to have been resolved quickly."
The news was also cause for celebration at Georgia Arms, where officials called the decision "a huge victory for common sense."
"We at Georgia Arms are proud of everyone who took the time and had the courage to stand up for our rights," said a statement on the company's Web site. "We believe that, by your outpouring of anger and dismay, you not only extended our liberty and freedoms but also took a stand for economic common sense in a time when we know our government should be trying to reduce costs at all levels rather than throwing money away for some politically correct reason or the other. Again, our hat is off to everyone who helped and thanks to God as well.
"We will roll up our sleeves and go back to work; we have .223’s and .308’s to build!"
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