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Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Buy Ammunition

Friday, August 17, 2012

You may recently have seen some in the Internet rumor mill feverishly repeating the obvious truth above, in an effort to stir up fear about recent acquisitions of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and a number of smaller agencies. The mildest writers have questioned why seemingly mundane agencies would need ammunition at all; more incendiary authors suggest that these government agencies are preparing for a war with the American people.

Much of the concern stems from a lack of understanding of the law enforcement functions carried about by officers in small federal agencies. These agents have the power to make arrests and execute warrants, just like their better-known counterparts at agencies like the FBI.

For instance, the Social Security Administration
solicited offers for 174,000 rounds of pistol ammunition. But the agency has 295 special agents who combat Social Security fraud that costs tax payers billions each year, so the order works out to roughly 590 rounds of ammunition per agent for training, mandatory quarterly qualification shooting and duty use. More than a few NRA members would use that much ammunition in a weekend shooting class or plinking session.

Another recent rumor questioned a request for 46,000 rounds of.40-caliber ammo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA inadvertently fueled that speculation through a clerical error that suggested the ammunition was destined for the National Weather Service. NOAA later clarified that the ammunition was actually for the little known
Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, which enforces laws against illegal fishing and marine life importation. The ammunition is for 63 personnel, amounting to about 730 rounds per officer.

The most widespread of the recent rumors involves a Department of Homeland Security contract for a maximum of 450 million rounds of .40-caliber jacketed hollow-points, to be supplied over the next five years.

After receiving numerous questions from his constituents regarding the contract, pro-Second Amendment U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and his staff set out in search of the truth. In a
press release, Rep. Westmoreland's office explains:

If you take the number of agencies that will be using this ammunition – CBP, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), ICE, the U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, the DHS police force, and all the guards that protect the various buildings these agencies are housed in, and spread that out over 5 years, you start to see that 450 million rounds really isn't that large of an order. Especially considering it is used for training purposes like firing range and live fire exercises, on-the-job use (though that is very limited), and to shore up their supplies. In fact, there are 65,000 – 70,000 law enforcement personnel at DHS who would be covered under this … ammunition contract. If DHS were to purchase all 450 million rounds over 5 years, then that would equate to only about 1,384 rounds of ammo per year per law enforcement [officer]  … assuming the lower estimate of only 65,000 law enforcement personnel at DHS.  Considering those agents go through training exercises several times per year, that is not a lot of ammunition.

Perhaps most strangely, some have cited the purchase of hollow-point ammunition as evidence of the federal government's evil motives. Hollow-points are the defensive ammunition of choice for federal, state and local law enforcement officers across the country, just as they are for private citizens. These attacks are eerily similar to statements made by gun prohibitionists, who spent the much of the '70s, '80s and '90s complaining about "dum dum" bullets. (In fact, the Violence Policy Center's website still exhibits a publication lamenting that federal ammunition law "has no effect on today's generation of high-tech hollow-point ammunition.") The attacks also ignore the fact that federal agents, unlike average taxpayers on more limited budgets, normally train and qualify with their duty ammunition.

As most gun owners will agree, skepticism of government is healthy. But today, there are more than enough actual threats to the Second Amendment to keep gun owners busy. With two key Supreme Court decisions hanging by a one-vote margin, the Justice Department deeply involved in a cover-up of a disastrous Mexican gun smuggling operation, and President Obama touting a ban on popular semi-automatic firearms, there is no need to invent additional threats to our rights.

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