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Police: Bullets in short supply

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Ammunition suppliers are running low, and now police are struggling along with other gun owners to get new bullets.

Gun owners concerned about new gun-control laws that are being discussed are snapping up ammunition at a rapid pace nationwide, and the increase in demand has caused shortages for both the public and police looking to order new rounds, especially bullets for automatic rifles.

While some gun owners scour area stores on a daily basis to find bullets for personal use, police are cutting back on shooting practice to conserve ammunition while waiting for distributors to catch up to the demand.

Police departments might have to wait up to a year or more before they can get new shipments of rifle ammunition because of the supply shortage.

At a glance

The shortage: Increased demand due to national concerns about new gun-control laws has made finding ammunition difficult for both gun owners and police. Ammunition for automatic rifles is especially hard to find, and police have been told it may be more than one year until they can get more.

Cutting back: Greenwood police and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office are reducing shooting practice in order to conserve bullets. Some Greenwood officers who want to be certified to use a rifle may have to wait until the department gets new ammunition. Franklin police and Camp Atterbury, a military installation near Edinburgh, shouldn’t be affected.

Alternative methods: Sheriff’s deputies will use soft pellet guns for training exercises in the spring and can use the weapons for shooting practice if necessary. Franklin police can use a laser-mounted target practice system if the shortage begins affecting their ammunition stock.

That shortage already has caused local police departments to reduce the number of rounds being fired by officers during training and practice. Police officers are required to shoot at least once a year to remain certified to use their firearms, but additional practice may be cut to conserve bullets, local police officials said.

Discussion of new gun laws since the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December have driven a rapid increase in gun and ammunition purchases. The demand quickly drained the stock of local stores and online retailers, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jacqueline Otto said.

“It’s directly related to the increased demand in firearms in general and people concerned about potential new gun-control legislation. It’s natural that people would buy the ammunition that goes with those firearms. It’s a trend we’ve seen nationally and part of that larger story of threatening gun-control legislation,” she said.

Greenwood resident Ben Underwood is uncertain about what the government may do and has been visiting local stores and gun shops daily to see what kind of ammunition they have available. If they have what he is looking for, he buys it, just in case new laws are approved that restrict certain guns or types of bullets, he said.

Underwood has checked Walmart stores in Greenwood, Avon and Beech Grove, Meijer in Center Grove and local gun shops throughout the area trying to find ammunition at regular prices, since some shops and websites have increased prices on what they have left.

“It’s pretty tough for every (size) round really. You’ll go into Walmart, and they’ll have one but not the other. Sometimes they have two, and sometimes they have none,” he said.

Local police departments also struggle to find what they need. One major distributor, Kiesler’s Police Supply and Ammunition in Jeffersonville, has told them new orders for rifle ammunition may not be filled for at least a year, so some local police departments are cutting back on practice shooting.

“We’re being told by our supplier there is none period. If we order it now we might get it next year,” Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matthew Fillenwarth said.

Ammunition for pistols is available, but the rifle rounds, which are used in automatic weapons like the one used by the shooter in Newtown, is on back order, Fillenwarth said.

Police don’t believe reducing training due to the shortage will affect their ability to fire accurately if they ever need to use their rifles on the job. Officers are trained to use a rifle in any incident in which a suspect may be armed or events like hostage situations where police may need to use force, police said.

“Your pistol is primarily a defensive weapon. We train to use use your pistol to fight your way back to your car to get your rifle or shotgun,” Fillenwarth said.

Greenwood police have enough ammunition available for annual rifle qualifications, but additional training sessions are being reduced, Fillenwarth said.

Greenwood officers typically try to do some kind of firearm training every other month. Some officers who want to switch from using shotguns to rifles as their offensive weapon also might have to wait, since the required three-day training session has the officer shoot about 800 rounds.

Johnson County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team members also are cutting back on practice shooting as a precaution; although, Sheriff Doug Cox said he thinks the department has enough bullets in stock to last a year.

An officer shoots about 50 rounds during a qualification session; and Cox said that, while SWAT members will continue to train once a month, they won’t be on the range shooting every time. The sheriff’s office also has stopped department shooting competitions between deputies until it can get new ammunition, he said.

Police departments also plan to implement alternative training that doesn’t use ammunition.

Cox purchased about $3,500 in guns that fire soft pellets that will be used primarily for active shooter training in local schools this spring but also can be used for target practice instead of real guns and bullets.

Franklin can use a target practice simulator that uses a laser mount on an actual rifle as one way to conserve bullets, Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said.

Franklin police don’t plan to reduce shooting practice, since the department is currently well-stocked on rifle rounds and already placed an order before demand shot up, O’Sullivan said. Franklin officers practice at the firing range two or three times per year.

All three police departments purchase their ammunition from Kiesler’s. Company representatives were not available this week, but their website has an announcement stating that most items are out of stock and on back order due to increased demand.

The company has told local police departments that rifle ammunition may not be available for up to a year or longer. But Cox said in the past suppliers were able to fill orders more quickly than that.

“We’ve heard this thing before when the wars were going on before. We were getting it in two and three months,” Cox said.

Area training facilities including Camp Atterbury, a military installation near Edinburgh, and the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield don’t expect to be affected by the shortage, since they buy larger quantities of ammunition further in advance.

“I plan 18 months out, so the ammunition right now we ordered 18-plus months ago,” said Lt. David Kipper, director of firearms training at the law enforcement academy.

Camp Atterbury also hasn’t been affected because, as a military training facility, it gets ammunition through different suppliers from law enforcement, and orders typically are filled a year in advance, said Capt. Jessica Halladay, media relations officer.

The post also utilizes several different sizes of rounds as opposed to the 5.56 mm size that is common in rifles used by police and the general public, she said.

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