The bullet-stockpiling rumor has made its way to Washington. Meanwhile, heavy demand has resulted in an ongoing shortage of ammunition in the United States.
A rumor that began as a chain email and grew through news stories on conservative websites has now graduated into the halls of Congress. New legislation has been voted on aimed at thwarting an alleged plot by the U.S. government to stockpile bullets that will either be used to combat "civil unrest" or be hoarded, so as to deprive civilians of their own ammunition.
This shocking conspiracy theory has no factual evidence to support it, of course, but that hasn't stopped its perpetuation.
The rumor centers on the notion that the Department of Homeland Security or the Social Security Administration — depending on which version of the conspiracy theory is being told — is making larger-than-normal purchases of ammunition for seemingly unexplained reasons.
According to one version of the rumor, a purchase quote request for 21.6 million bullets was recently made by the DHS. This bullet "stockpiling" was recently referred to by Sarah Palin in February, who tweeted that the DHS was "stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest" (MSN News Rumors addressed Palin's claim at the time). Before that, the rumor was published on such right-wing websites as InfoWars and Glenn Beck's The Blaze, with headlines such as "Federal agency has now acquired enough bullets to wage 30-year war."
What these stories fail to mention is that the purchase order in question (seen here in a downloadable Excel spreadsheet) represents supplies for "duty carry" agents who work as armed law-enforcement officers. The DHS reportedly has more than 100,000 peace officers across 90 agencies, most of whom are armed and use bullets in training, and occasionally in the line of duty. DHS officials have cited cost savings and frequent threats of sequestration as reasons for buying supplies in bulk.
Snopes thoroughly debunked the rumor in March, and the conservative Daily Caller also debunked a version that quoted the 21.6-million-bullet figure, which appears to be a simple miscalculation by chain-email authors and bloggers that resulted in a vast overstatement of the order.
TRUE: A bill was recently passed by a congressional committee that would temporarily halt DHS ammo purchases.
Regardless of its basis in reality, the bullet-stockpiling rumor was addressed last week by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which voted to approve an amendment to halt funds for DHS ammunition purchases until the department submits a detailed report about why it needs the bullets and how it has used them in the past. The bill must still be passed by the full House and the Senate and survive a presidential veto to become law.
Supporters of the bill say it's aimed at giving Americans assurance that ammunition bought by the government won't be used nefariously. Detractors say the bill is based on disproven conspiracy theories and will needlessly hamstring the DHS.
TRUE: Due to strong demand, there is an ongoing shortage of ammunition available for civilians.
Whether or not it is connected to the DHS' ammo purchases, there is no doubt that bullets are a hot commodity at gun shops these days. As reported by CBS, the Tampa Bay Times and CNN, ammunition shortages have been reported across the country for more than a year, as worries of stricter gun laws have inspired gun owners to purchase arms and ammo in record-breaking numbers.
Most recently the ammo-buying frenzy in the United States jumped the Pacific Ocean to Australia, where gun sellers there reportedly say they are expecting a huge shortage in arms and ammunition, thanks to Americans who are buying up all they can get their hands on.
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