By Selwyn Harris
In a town where guns are flaunted openly with unabashed fervor, a nationwide ammunition shortage has not spared Pahrump by a long shot.
Many gun enthusiasts in the community say they believe the shortage was triggered by the re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama.
Fears centered on the belief that Obama’s re-election meant stricter gun control laws were likely, perhaps even ammunition taxes would be enacted by the federal government.
At present, those fears have not been realized, but the president has indicated a renewed endorsement of gun restrictions in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings last December.
Local gun dealers say they cannot seem to carry enough rounds to satisfy the voracious appetite of local gun enthusiasts.
Walt Rubio manages WR Sporting, LLC, on Frontage Road. He offered his reasoning as to why guns and ammo are flying off the shelves.
“To put it quite bluntly, it’s the government. People seem to be extremely concerned about the way things are going in the country. Consequently, they are buying everything they can get their hands on,” he said.
While attending a “shot show” back in January, Rubio said he learned that gun and ammo manufacturers are having a tough time simply keeping up with the high demand.
“The show is for dealers and wholesalers and I talked to most of the ammo manufacturers there and they are working 24/7 to try and produce enough ammo and they can’t keep up with it,” he said.
Rubio said that on a recent trip to Las Vegas for a gun show at a casino he was completely amazed by the throngs of attendees at the event.
“I was at South Point with my grandson and the line snaked around the casino. It was like a six-hour wait just to buy ammo. When I got in there, they were limiting sales of ammo and I have been getting phone calls from Vegas, Henderson, and all over Arizona. The farthest one away was Dallas, Texas looking for ammunition,” he said.
Rubio also said that the shortage is not limited to one specific type of ammo.
He did say that it may change in the coming months.
“It is everything. There is nothing in particular even down to the .22′s. It’s amazing because .22′s are just as high on the hit list as anything else. You can’t get anything. I deal with five different distributors and every one of them has nothing so you have to put back-orders in. My personal opinion is that I feel towards the end of summer things may stabilize and we’ll start to get the supply back, but until that happens I have no idea what’s going to go on,” he said.
Robert Brentlinger is the owner of Master at Arms on Thousandaire.
He said the run on guns and ammo is nothing new to him.
Since late 2008, he has seen a sharp uptick in customers wanting to buy and stockpile firearms and ammunition.
Like Rubio, he too believes that sales have shot up due to fears that the federal government may enact harsh restrictions on those wanting to purchase firearms and bullets.
“It seems to be a multifold problem. Number one is the unprecedented demand for ammunition for whatever reason. People are afraid that the government for some reason is either going to ban ammunition sales, limit sales in some way, or put high taxes on ammunition. As a result, they are buying it in unprecedented quantities, which has pushed the price up and pushed the amount of available ammunition down,” he said.
Rumors are rampant online that federal government is also stockpiling billions of rounds of ammunition.
Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin last month said on her official Facebook page dated Feb. 27, 2013 that civil unrest is on the horizon in the United States due mainly to the state of the economy.
“If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3 percent in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we are done. Put a fork in us. We are finished. We are going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest,” one post reads.
While Brentlinger did not mention Palin’s unsubstantiated comment, he did say that the federal government normally purchases large amounts of munitions following the new year.
“The first of the year is always a time when large government contracts come through and the military starts their procurements for the year. I understand that military and government procurements this year have been extremely high for ammunition. In a lot of cases they appear to be wanting their ammunition up front instead of spread out through the year. As normally, they seem to be wanting all of it as quickly as possible,” he remarked.
Brentlinger also noted that such a demand does put a strain on manufacturers, which in part explains limited amount of ammo for civilian consumers.
“The ammunition companies are not able to fulfill the demand of ammunition for both government and military contracts, and civilian sales, which are all demanding such unprecedented numbers at this time at once, so there have been huge backlogs on all of the common calibers such as nine millimeters, .223′s, and .22 long rifles. They are all in very short supply,” he said.
One option for those seeking ammo is the so-called “do it yourself” method, which Brentlinger said is gaining popularity as of late. Gun owners are also experiencing shortages there as well.
“Reloading components have gone the same way as ammunition. It is very hard to get powder and primers for reloading. It seems that the majority of materials are going into loaded ammunition and so there have not been the quantity of reloading components normally available out there to get. People are buying reloading components at an unprecedented number. People who can’t get their standard ammunition have gone back to reloading to supplement their ammunition supply and found that there’s nothing left on the shelves. Powder, primers and bullets are in short supply also,” he said.
The short supply has also led to higher prices for buyers.
Brentlinger said the cost for ammo nationwide has increased dramatically.
“With internet sales, a standard brick of .22′s was around $40 average. Now I’ve heard of $70 to $100 for a brick of .22 caliber ammunition, which is about a 50-to-70 percent markup,” he said.
One local resident was fortunate enough to purchase ammo for his .22 caliber rifle at Master at Arms.
Lance Shropshire said he searched long and hard to find what he was looking for.
“This is great because I live right across the street. I only use them for sport just to target shoot with my kids about twice a month. It’s just to have fun. I don’t go out shooting animals or anything like that because it’s not for me,” he said.
Meanwhile, a local resident at Rubio’s shop said he had no such luck while visiting a gun show in Las Vegas.
After waiting most of the day, he returned to Pahrump without bullets.
“It opened at 8 a.m., and when I got there at 9:30 in the morning, the parking lot was closed. I couldn’t get into it. I came back later in the afternoon to give it one more try. The parking lot was open and when I went in all of the ammo was sold out. I saw people with handcarts taking cases of ammo out the door and to their vehicle,” he said.
Civilians are not the only ones who have been affected by the ammunition drought.
Even Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said his department is feeling the effects of the short supply as deputies routinely use their firearms for range shooting and target practice on a regular basis, which is mandated by the office.
“We also have to wait. Law enforcement has to wait. We do have enough ammunition for our job and we have to re-qualify at least twice a year,” he said.
The sheriff agreed that large volumes of ammo purchases made by federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, which reportedly is looking to buy up to 1.1 billion rounds of ammunition, could be one cause of the shortage.
If there is any good news for gun owners, Brentlinger said at least one type of ammunition seems to be available, at least for now.
“Right now, ammunition for shotguns are the only ones available in good quantities,” Brentlinger said.