Many ammunition dealers across the country — including some in Beaufort County — are limiting the amount customers can buy at one time following a spike in demand over the last several months.
Some of those who sell ammunition in the Lowcountry attribute the rise in demand to the reeletion of Barack Obama and the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman armed with an assault-like rifle. Both incidents fueled fears among some of stricter gun control laws.
Signs in the Walmart in Beaufort and Dick’s Sporting Goods in Bluffton told customers Saturday they were limited to three boxes of ammunition a day. The shelves in both stores were nearly empty.
“Our truck usually comes in on Friday,” said a Dick’s employee. “We’ve had people lining up before the door opens... . It’s usually all gone before noon.”
He said the demand increased most noticeably after the Connecticut shooting.
A Walmart employee said she couldn’t recall the last time the store had .9 mm rounds in stock. Walmart made a company-wide decision Jan. 24 to limit the sales of ammunition to three boxes per customer per day, according to a Walmart news release.
Both employees would not give their names because it is against their companys’ policy to speak to the media.
Ed Soto, owner of the Palmetto Indoor Range in Hardeeville, decided about four weeks ago that customers can only buy ammo from him if they use it on his range.
“No one can leave my store with the ammunition they bought here,” he said Saturday. “I’ve had some people get pretty mad at me ... but the range is my business and it’s how I make a living.”
He said manufacturers have only been able to deliver about 10 percent of his orders each week for about two months. He estimated about 750,000 rounds are fired at his range each year.
Soto said he started stocking up on ammunition in August, when he thought there was a good chance Obama would be re-elected. He said there was a run on it in 2008, when Obama won his first term. He said Obama’s second term is spurring an even greater demand.
“A friend of mine said Obama wasn’t going to touch gun control in his first term because he wouldn’t get re-elected,” Soto said. “Now that he is... people are practically panicking.”
Palmetto State Armory in Ridgeland could not be reached for comment, but its website says 52 of 54 types of .9 mm ammunition are out of stock. The website also warns customers to allow at least 15 days for delivery because “order volume is at never before seen levels.”
As a woman got in line to by a .22-caliber rifle at Dick’s Saturday, an employee shook his head and looked at the empty ammunition shelves.
“I suspect it will be a long time before there will be a supply that stays on the shelves,” he said.
Follow reporter Anne Christnovich twitter.com/IPBG_Anne.