During a Press release today Senators Inhofe and Lucas accused the Department of Homeland Security of "limiting what’s available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition." Source

Is there any evidence that this is actually the intent of the DHS as the press release indicates?

Please note that this question is not about are the stockpiles unnecessary? Rather it is "Is the government building the stockpiles with the intent of limiting the availability of ammunition on the market?"

For those saying that Inhofe is not accusing the administration of this here is a more direct accusation.

"[O]ur president, Obama, has been doing everything he could to stop the private ownership of guns in America,” Inhofe said. “You know that, everyone knows that. And yet he’s been voted down in a big way by a large majority. And so my feeling is that he’s doing this to buy up [ammunition] so that we can’t buy: Honest, law-abiding citizens here in the United States, like my son, can’t even buy ammunition because government is purchasing so much.”

The bolding is mine to point out the direct accusation

  • 1
    this is NOT what the press release claims. It claims that it CAN be used for the purpose, not that it does. – user5341 Apr 26 '13 at 18:21
  • 1
    "is ABLE to do this" - Indicates that it can. If it said what you think it said it would simply say "is doing this". Feel free to take it to English.SE if you don't believe me. – user5341 Apr 26 '13 at 18:28
  • 3
    Respectfully, I believe you are both right... and both wrong. The claim does only state that such a method could work, and does not outright make the claim that that is what the Obama administration is doing, but in the context of the comments about stockpiling, and the demands for transparency about federal agencies' ammunition supplies, it is pretty clearly implying that that is what the government is intending by these purchases. I have seen other, somewhat less-reputable sources, making the same claim but in much blunter, overt terms. – Beofett Apr 26 '13 at 18:34
  • 2
    @Beofett - I hate to give them credence but this is a member of the government "Implying" that the activity is ongoing. For that reason this claim is worthy of the question IMO. I really would rather not give the conspiracy mongers like alex jones extra traffic by linking to them. – Chad Apr 26 '13 at 18:37
  • 3
    Questions about the motivation of people are off-topic per the rules of this website. – Christian Apr 27 '13 at 15:39

The Department of Homeland Security responded in a statement released to the U.S. News and World Report.

DHS told Whispers it regularly fills all of its goods and services requirements at one time because it's cheaper for the agency, and that the 1.6 billion number was misleading because the language of DHS's purchase said it would need "up to" a certain amount.

"DHS routinely establishes strategic sourcing contracts that combine the requirements of all its components for commonly purchased goods and services such as ammunition," a DHS legislative affairs person wrote to Coburn. "These strategic sourcing contracts help leverage the purchasing power of DHS to efficiently procure equipment and supplies at significantly lower costs," the department told Coburn.

A detailed breakdown of the purchases can be found here. The report breaks down utility and purchases by department, which appear to be in line with previous years. The number of rounds purchased was 150mil in 2010, and around 100mil in 2011 and 2012. If anything, the number of purchased rounds is going down. The requested budget allows for 320 million rounds 2013, but that does not mean that the DHS will actually purchase the rounds. The agency has spent $36mil on ammo in 2012, and approximates spending $37mil in 2013, an estimated increase of 2.7% (not adjusted for inflation).

I refer you to this article in the Military Times that discusses these numbers in greater detail.

Note also that according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 10-12 billion rounds are produced domestically per year, with "many more billions" of foreign imports. Which would mean that the government is approved (and not guaranteed) to buy up to 2.6% of the national production per year, and a smaller number if we account for foreign imports. Mr. Nayak and Bert Medina, director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement National Firearms and Tactical Training Unit put that number closer to 1%. Given that these estimates don't account for the existing inventory or unused manufacturing capacity, it seems the effects of the purchase are at best modest.

Finally, note that the conspiracy theories about the government stockpiling ammo surface yearly around the budget time, and are propagated by conspiracy blogs that don't bother to read the released documentation. See for example the note on Skeptic Blog by Brian Donning from 2012.

To conclude: (1) The documentary evidence speaks to the government's explicit intent of "procuring supplies" for the arms-bearing departments under the umbrella of the department of homeland security. These procurements are coordinated among multiple agencies, and at levels consistent with their purchases in the past few years. There is no mandate or evidence of collusion between these agencies to limit the market.

(2) By conservative estimates, the government is approved to purchase between 1% and 2.6% of only the domestic supply of ammunition per year, constraining the potential impact on the market to these numbers.

  • 2
    The numbers do not entirely add up. The link you provided cites 100M average a year, but the numbers reported now are between 750M and 1.6B for 5 years - significantly higher than this average. That's between 50% and 200% jump. It also does NOT provide the #s for pre-2008. – user5341 Apr 26 '13 at 18:06
  • 1
    The difference is between actual purchased rounds and approved rounds. The number of rounds actually purchased has been going down. @DVK – denten Apr 26 '13 at 18:14
  • 1
    @Denton - I do not count a statement by the agency accused as evidence that it is not happening. Second you need a reference for the claim it seems the effects of the purchase are at best negligible. It may seem logical but that logic may be flawed. And There is nothing out of the ordinary about its recent purchases. is not consistent with other statements that have been put out by the government explaining why it has increased is purchasing levels. This needs a citition as well. If you had the last to cited I Think you would have a good answer. – Chad Apr 26 '13 at 18:17
  • 1
    A proper answer would contain: (1) Purchase #s from prior years (before 2008); (2) Comparison between authorizations and purchased rounds in the past to see if 750MM rounds is in line with prior "approval" #s. As it is, they release 1 year's worth of budgets, to compare to 2-3 prior years. This is in no way proving either the truthiness or falsiness of whether Obama administration is doing something different, since the data doesn't go back far enough to compare to pre-2008. – user5341 Apr 26 '13 at 18:24
  • 3
    @DVK I see why someone would care about pre-Obama numbers, but there is nothing in the claim about that. The claim merely states that the DHS purchases are "limiting the market" and are "unnecessary." Both claims are more or less debunked in the answer, to the extent the numbers allow. – denten Apr 26 '13 at 18:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .