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Ammo flying off store shelves across Central Illinois

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 9:27 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — BLOOMINGTON — If there are worries about gun regulations being tightened in the wake of recent mass shootings, they appear to be showing up on the shelves of ammunition sellers in Central Illinois.

Walmart stores in the Bloomington and Decatur areas, some of the largest ammunition sellers, are either out of or had very few remaining boxes of several common types of ammunition, like 9mm, this week. Spokesmen for Walmart and Dick’s, another big ammo seller reporting shortages, did not respond to questions about their supplies as of Wednesday.

Smaller gun shop businesses in the area said they’re also affected by the difficulty in purchasing ammo and keeping it on shelves. An associate at Darnall’s Shooting Range in rural Bloomington said if the range didn’t save boxes of ammunition for people to use, they wouldn’t have any bullets to offer people: The rest of their stock has been bought out, and purchases have picked up since the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Stephen Stewart, owner of 10-8 Outfitters, a Bloomington firearms dealer, said the same is true at his business, adding the surge in buying definitely coincided with the tragedy in Connecticut.

“More of the common (types of) rounds are unavailable right now,” Stewart said. “People are buying it by the case instead of by the box. I think this is more intense than the (buying sprees after) Brady gun ban or after the previous election.”

Stewart, who attended an industry trade show in Las Vegas last week, said other business owners are telling him the same thing. When he returned to Bloomington, Stewart said he found a stack of 60 FOID card applications waiting for him. A regular week usually brings about 15, he said.

Dan Cooley, owner of The Bullet Trap in Macon, an indoor range that also sells weapons and ammunition, said his establishment is in the same situation: sales picked up after the tragedy, adding the difficulty in getting bullets might be exacerbated by the recent holiday buying spree.

“Most of our normal sources have dried up totally and completely,” said Cooley. “I’m unable to get any 9mm or .22 Long Rifle, probably the two most popular cartridges we sell.”

The uptick in business has come with its share of problems, Stewart said. High demand has raised prices, and it’s difficult to keep bringing in customers when the shelves look bare.

“In trying to get the more popular stuff to restock, we’ll put four or five guns that we get out and they go away so fast we can just never get any stock back in the store, so it constantly looks like we’re empty.”

Kip Jacobsen of Bloomington, a regular participant in shooting competitions who was shopping at 10-8 this week, said he’s noticed the shortages, even as somebody who often loads his own ammunition.

“I’ve tried not to purchase more than I’d normally purchase or need in the immediate future,” Jacobsen said. “A lot of guys load our own, but getting reloading supplies — powder and primers — you can’t get a primer.”

Shirley Leevy of Decatur, a member of the Decatur Gun Club’s board and its former president, said as somebody who shoots a shotgun, she’s even noticed a shortage of shotgun shells at firearms dealers. She said she also believes the wave of ammunition purchasing is related to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

“Some 12 gauge and 20 gauge shells are getting hard to keep (on store shelves), which makes no sense,” Leevy said. “To me, it’s a fear, so everybody is grabbing up what they can. It’ll kind of die down, just like it did a few years back.”

The fear, she said, is of new regulations that may affect firearm owners in the wake of the mass shootings that have occurred over the past year. She said the reaction feels similar to the one surrounding the assault weapons ban

“I shoot in competitions, and I love it,” Leevy said. “I don’t want to see that taken away because of some nut who’s just evil.”

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