Eastern Iowa ammunition shortage improving, but not a lot

Owners worried about changes in gun laws buying more ammunition

Published: August 6 2013 | 5:30 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 6:40 pm in

Handguns — Smith & Wessons, Glocks and others — are on display in a glass case inside Cedar Valley Outfitters.

Dozens of shotguns and rifles are uniformly hung on the wall behind the case.

And under the long guns are two long shelves where the ammunition is stored. There are at least a few cases, sometimes as many as a dozen or so, of almost every type of ammo — .22 LR, 9 mm, 40 caliber — though there are gaps in the rows of boxes.

It’s not a lot, but it’s something, said Ernie Traugh, owner of the store at 1193 Grand Ave. in Marion.

“I would tell you it’s way better than it was three months ago,” said Traugh of his ammo supply. “But, ‘way better than’ still isn’t good. There isn’t enough of it to be bought anywhere in the county.”

Reasons for shortage

Traugh, gun owners and others say the ammunition shortage that began before President Barack Obama’s re-election in November 2012 and hit its zenith in the months that followed the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting in Newtown, Conn., continues to this day. Many gun owners are stocking up out of concern that more restrictive gun laws governing weapons and high-capacity magazines would follow Obama’s re-election and the Newtown shooting.

Businesses that supply ammunition are having a somewhat easier time getting their hands on rounds, and gun owners don’t have to go to quite the same effort to obtain ammunition, though hassles remain.

“Nine months ago, I could probably go to a store locally and pick up what I wanted,” said Bob Godlove, president of the Linn County chapter of the Izaak Walton League. “If not, I could order it online and get it within a week or two. Now, it’s a couple of months.”

Godlove, a competitive shooter, said the shortage began around the time President Obama was re-elected and continued after the Newtown shooting.

“This isn’t political,” said Godlove. “This is just the reality of what happened.”

Godlove said the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League — a national non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the soil, air, woods and water of the United States — is one of the largest in the state and 13th largest in the county. Many of their members are hunters and sporting shooters, which Godlove said necessitates a lot of live fire training.

Making adjustments

He said they’ve gotten around the shortage by ordering their ammunition months in advance.

“We haven’t had to cut down at all,” Godlove said. “Individual members who didn’t choose to do what we did — buy ahead — they are not getting all they target practice in that they want. Unlike the old days, you can’t run out to the main sporting goods stores and pick it up. It’s just not there.”

Traugh at Cedar Valley Outfitters said he gets ammunition in on a daily basis, but it’s not nearly enough to meet the demand of his customers. He said the citizens that don’t shoot can’t fathom how much ammunition gun owners go through. For instance, Traugh, who both teaches and attends shooting classes, shoots 500 to 1,000 rounds every couple of days.

Costs have gone up, as well. A box of .22 — a relatively cheap ammunition — used to go for $2 or $3, Traugh said. Now, it’s up to $4 or $5.

“You’re paying almost twice as much,” he said. “If a guy buys one box, he doesn’t care. If he buys 1,000 boxes a year, he cares.”

When he does get ammunition in, Traugh said he doesn’t place any limits on how much customers can buy.

“That irritates people, but those people don’t own businesses,” he said.

The other side effect of the shortage is people don’t want to buy guns if they know they won’t be able to buy ammunition to go with it.

“We’ve got a lot of .22 handguns and long guns sitting on the shelf — more than we’d like — because of that reason,” said Justin Anderson, store manager at Fin and Feather in Iowa City.

Anderson said they have ammunition on the shelves, but he also has an employee who spends “a good portion of the day” searching for online distributors who have anything to sell.

“Within the last week, we’ve gotten a lot more in,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty much back to normal.”

Police impact

Police departments also are impacted by the shortage. Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said all officers are required to qualify with their sidearms and shotguns twice a year. Additionally, patrol rifle operators practice four times a year and the department’s tactical team trains every two months.

“We just need to make sure we plan ahead,” Kelsay said. “It’s pretty scripted for us. We know how much ammo we are going to go through. We are able to look ahead and place our orders far enough ahead.”

Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said they have also responded to the shortage by ordering ammunition in advance.

“We have not seen a shortage or been affected by the shortage,” she said.

Keeping ammunition in stock is in everyone’s best interest, Traugh said, arguing well-trained gun owners are safer gun owners.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I have the kind of clientele that want to train. It’s frustrating when you can’t get ammo for it.”

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