Gun buying rush leads to ammo shortage for police

A rush of gun buyers has led to a shortage of ammunition in central Indiana.

The debate over gun control has created an unintended consequence: a serious ammunition shortage affecting the very people who need it to protect the public.

Bullets are on backorder for police departments nationwide and right here in central Indiana. At gun shops, we've seen the empty shelves from a surge in sales.

From firearms to ammunition, restocking supply is nearly impossible.

"There's none to be had," said Elmore's Firearms owner Russell Elmore. "We just can't get 'em. Cannot get 'em."

Ever since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, distributors are telling store owners they can't keep up with demand.

"Ha! That's what I get. They laugh. They tell me, 'We having nothing and we really don't know when we'll be getting any in'," Elmore explained.

But there's another consequence to this run on guns - a potential problem for public safety. Police departments are facing a shortage in ammo and weapons, too.

Needed tools for protecting the public are on indefinite back order.

"In years past, you could be looking at one, maybe two months. Now you're looking at one, maybe two years," said Franklin Police Chief Tim O'Sullivan.

"Supply and demand. Everything's being bought up. They said , you know, there's no preference to law enforcement, it's just going to whoever buys it first and they're trying to stay up for production and they can't," added Officer Joseph Rodriguez, director of the Greenwood Police Training Center.

Both Greenwood and Franklin Police have heard the same answer. Certain types of ammo could take a year or even more to get in.

Officers say it's a delay they didn't even experience when our country was fighting two wars. Practice ammunition used for training is especially tough to find.

"They don't have it. Everybody's buying it up," Rodriguez said.

The availability of training ammo is so important, because what happens in the range directly impacts police preparedness in the field.

"Some departments that may not have surplus ammo like we had are going to have to eliminate some of their training," Chief O'Sullivan said. "If you have to eliminate a training, then how's that going to affect the officer when something happens like a school-action shooting and they have to go in there and respond? If they haven't had the practice, then it's going to be more difficult. You just can't be rusty when it comes to firearms."

Greenwood and Franklin police both say they have enough ammo in storage to keep their training schedules on track, for now. But it could cause problems in future years.

What they call "fear-based" buying by the public is shrinking supply for those who protect and serve. Just like gun owners, police are also noticing a spike in prices for guns and ammo, as high demand affects the supply.