Photo by Chris Rogers
Civilians and law enforcement officials may wait months or even a year to get ammunition orders. A buying spree has gobbled up supply. Some law enforcement agencies have had to postpone training sessions because there just are not enough bullets. Also, permits to carry pistols have doubled this year in Winona County.
Like other Americans, area residents in droves are buying up ammunition and applying for permits to carry a pistol. Permit to carry applications in Winona County are more than double from last year, and for civilians and law enforcement officials alike, ammunition has been hard to come by in 2013. "We've had issues just like every other law enforcement agency," said Trempealeau County Sheriff Rich Anderson. "We're getting by, but it's a couple less qualifications to get by."
Anderson is referring to marksmanship qualifications, a regular test officers complete to ensure their skills are sharp. One test requires a couple hundred rounds each for pistol and rifle testing and another 50 rounds for shotgun testing. Lewiston Police Chief Joe Hastings said he paid for 500 rounds of sidearm ammunition out of pocket to complete a firearm instructor course with the FBI this year. He said he was very lucky to find that many rounds.
Jeff Stingl, owner of Mainstream Firearms in downtown Winona, said that ammo is flying off his shelves. When asked if people were asking for ammo frequently, he said, "It's stupid. People call all the time." He used to be able to call up a manufacturer and get ammunition in a few days. Now he is waiting for weeks or months for small shipments that are gone within a few days. Stingl says that.22 ammo is extremely hard to come by, though as of last Thursday a few boxes remained on his shelves.
Fountain City Police Officer Jason Mork said that he does not go through much ammunition, but that he has "heard rumors that .45 is gone and .308 is a myth."
"I haven't seen nine millimeter [rounds] in three months," Stingl said. "A lot of people are panic buying. If people just relax it'll come back around." The ammo shortage began around January. "People were going out in droves and buying this stuff. They're thinking they won't be able to get it," Stingl said.
"People are unbelievably frustrated" that they cannot get ammo, he continued. "It's pretty bad when law enforcement cannot even get what they need."
While some have pushed back qualifications, other law enforcement agencies said they have plenty of rounds for their duties. Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack said that the department's bulk order of ammo is on back order and should be received in ten months to a year, but that the department has more than enough to last. "This happens every few years—more and more, recently," Bostrack explained. The department plans on it and stocks up when demand is low.
Mork said that he keeps four years' worth of rounds on hand, so he is not running out.
Stingl said that even if demand drops off now, manufacturers will take a year or more to catch up with back orders.
Permits to carry
The Winona County Sheriff's Department issued 269 permits between January 1, 2013, and May 29, 2013, said Records Clerk Joy Mueller, citing Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) data.
"There are 40 more permits sitting on my desk" waiting to be processed, she said. "It's overwhelming. That figure — 269 — is is up from 138 permits issued in the same time period last year and 91 in that time in 2011. "Out of 81 counties in Minnesota, only 21 do more [permits than Winona County]," Mueller said.
She said that people of all ages and sexes have been coming to get their permits, but that many are Wisconsin residents who come across to the nearest border town to get permits to carry in Minnesota. Muller said that applicants have expressed fears that gun laws will soon change.